Nous Sommes Une

Silos.  Lanes.  Walls.  Turf.  There are many words to describe institutionalized obstacles to sharing information – and the list goes on, describing what nonprofit organizations are dealing with, what staff and consultants are ranting about.

Nous sommes une - we are one.  Information benefits everyone in an organization, and we all want the silos to come down. And, yet very little substantive change is occurring within the culture of the non-profit world.  Why?  Fear of change, fear that change may mean less money, fear that someone else will get the credit, fear of more work, instinct to stay safe, lack of an organizational mandate to play together and share, influence of a dysfunctional budgeting process, etc.

It is time to start not just talking about our discontent but actively working towards effecting real change – from whatever floor or office in the building we hang out in.

Because no matter what title you have, I truly believe that all of us—from the production manager to the Chief Development Officer can really affect change. As a child of the 60's, challenging the status quo was never a problem for me.  My rebellious ways have been affirmed. Ordinary people did extraordinary things—like tearing down the Berlin Wall, turning the iron curtain into scrap metal, leading the Orange Revolution, courageously standing their ground in Tiananmen Square, taking to the streets during the Arab Spring and more.

If people living under crazy bad oppression have the courage to demand progress, don’t we owe it to our world of fundraising to start clamoring for change until the noise is simply too loud to ignore?     

I know that it is not as simple as taking down the swim lane markers and assuming that everyone will splash around.  Change may mean jumping off the high dive into the deep end of the pool to join the water polo team and help them score winning goals.  (By the way, water polo players are really big and scary strong!)

We need to leave words like "mine” and “yours" behind when referring to donors and members, and remember that organizations are a magnificent blend of staff, volunteers, programs, donors, end users, friends, supporters, sponsors, etc.  Just as an organization is greater than the sum of all stake holders, so too should be the blending of the fundraising goal. 

However, as long as multiple databases, revenue goals based on channel or department, demanding growth for the sake of growth, lack of analytics to clearly illustrate where there are growth opportunities and industry benchmarks that we all use as an excuse to saying 'we're doing a good job'.

But the biggest issue is attribution. As long as we continue to have organizational infighting about who gets credit for what and from whom – there is no way to move forward to meet our donors where they are… which is everywhere - online, on the city streets, reading mail, talking on the phone, playing games, working out in the gym…which is, by the way, the only way we will be able to raise the money we need to change the world.

I love the quote from “The Emperor’s Club,” which is also Phillips Andover Academy’s motto: "The end depends upon the beginning.” It says to me – if our organizations are truly going to pull up the swim lane markers, then creating one holistic budget is the key to tossing the swim lane markers once and for all!