Imagine a balloon. It expands and once it reached its maximum point, it will stop expanding and start exploding.
Rapid, unbridled, uncontrollable growth creates pressures and issues for the organization. Capacity is over-stretched than normal, new needs are required to make it successful. There is a tendency to forsake other boring functions in the organization to service the change which had left a huge demand for management and staff. A huge imbalance threatens order and stability. The management is left to fend for itself to put back a new normal of arrangements. In short, caught with its pants down.
When times are great, they roll and frolic, not making/creating strategies that will outlast the growth in a measured way. There is a tendency to ride on the high wave unaware of the risks and threat, but when the wave disappears leaving the organization unable to sustain the growth. They crash into the shore with battered limbs.
It can be a major capital gain, major project, a business partner that has to be serviced, a new donor with high demands, program scope creep, new acquisition, etc. Anything that has been committed and is eating a major chunk of organizational resources without clear and compelling alignment to the overall business strategy.
This is an unsustainable and non-desirable growth that you don't want to have.
Be careful when you wish for growth. Only with the alignment to strategy can you justify investing in more and more for far greater returns.
Engagement is the lubricant to effective change management efforts.
Once the solution has been identified and a plan has been set in place, the question now is how to implement the plan and ensure that all the stakeholders are in the same page and would be able to support it.
The engagement process is very similar to many change management process in many organizations, be it in the public and the private sector.
It starts with understanding and knowing who are the authorities who need the approval of these mechanisms so that it is set for adoption throughout the organization.
Who needs to lead, articulate, and champion this at the public level? They hold the accountability role. It is with them that the buck stops, so to speak.
The second tier of engagement in the organization is the middle management and the staff. They need to be on board in the whole process.
At the implementation stage, they need to fully agree and provide the best support or facility to ensure its successful implementation.
The third tier of engagement is the public.
It could be your shareholders, stakeholders, volunteers, constituencies, customers/clients, and other important public entities that have a clear stake in the process.
They should be engaged throughout the process but in implementation, they should have a clear role to play - to be involved, to support, to be informed/updated on the progress, etc. They hold the keys to wider support from the communities they represent, can speak on behalf of your organization, and can oftentimes, clear the cobwebs of doubt, negativity, and pessimism about the changes that are being espoused.
The engagement process can be a long process for very complex projects and initiatives involving multi-stakeholders with varying degrees of involvement and agenda/interests.
It could involve a considerable amount of staff time, financial resources, and even public media campaign to solidify the changes in the minds of its target audience. It cannot be rushed though.
Taking the time to really get down to the target audience and create trusting and open dialogue bridges an otherwise hostile and indifferent crowd.
The key is to create the environment where people can trust the changes are for the better, that it welcomes their inputs and participation, and encourages healthy debate and discourse.
Between planning and implementation, the engagement is a must and cannot be taken out from shortcut purpose.
When this is done carefully and wisely, the long-term benefits outweigh the initial short-term growing pains.
Q: How do I do something meaningful in my career while still being able to sustain myself?
This is a very important question. A young person has asked this and I am impressed by the honesty that this is brought out. Young people are expected to work after they reach a certain age and then figure out hopefully what they want to do with their lives. The person obviously is looking to find a career in international development and wanting to also sustain herself.
Well, the sector is not for someone that wanted to be a billionaire. While saying this, we also don’t want for people to not stay in the sector because they can’t make a gainful employment enough to provide for their families or their own needs. I am sad that many millennials are turned off by the low level of income and opportunities in this sector compared to the corporate sector. This has to change!
Another point of sustaining is Self-care. And this comes with self-awareness. How much is too much? As I was telling this crowd of young people, this is a long game! You need to pause, take a stock, rejuvenate from time to time to get a better perspective on things. These have to be done on a regular basis in order for you to avoid burn-out and all of its negative consequences. Check and monitor yourself when you have become mechanical and apathetic to what you are doing. These tell you that you need to have a break.
It happened to me. Burn-out had crippled me and reduced my ability to be effective in what I was doing. I was traveling out of the country, sometimes 3 times a month for 3-6 consecutive months. The time in the office was used for issuing invoices, making reports, checking in on office matters, preparing for the next trip, engaging the contractors, etc. There was no time for social downtime or for recreation. Weekends were used to complete unfinished projects or think about the next proposal. In the beginning it was great but later on, I was tired, worn out, and ready to quit. I had lost my creative juices.
I also found out that it is important to look for people, network, and allies that could re-energize, restore, and re-establish the reasons why you are working in this sector. You have to seek out and nurture the networks that are genuinely interested and truly cares for your well-being, not only about what you can offer as a contribution.
Sustaining oneself on a regular basis is what keeps you going and thriving in the long game of this work. Instant gratification is not the goal.
I don’t believe in starving all the other elements in your life to be successful in one game too. This thought has proliferated and is the one to blame for the suicides and depressions people faced while building up their businesses or careers.
As I told someone, it is not selfishness that you take care of yourself and discover your self before you can take up the world’s problems.
I think it’s a smart and healthy thing to do. Balance and moderation win the day.
What are you thoughts? Share it here.
This is a big question that I have to pause when I heard somebody say that they don’t want to be fundraising for the rest of their life.
In a traditional NGO lifecycle, there is fundraising, and fundraising, and fundraising. It is the starting point (never-ending point) of an organization’s life and there is no end in sight.
Maybe unless you hit a jackpot- a billionaire just pledged their whole wealth on your program. Then, you are freed from raising monies.
If one is not fundraising, where is the money going to come from?
Is there a way to detach fundraising from our work and let some platform do it for us? And how about the fees for service?
Is there a machine/robot that can just do a lot of crowdsourcing for a small fee?
Is there a way to run a social enterprise /income generation part of the organization to get the revenue coming?
Is there a way to leverage existing partnerships to create new business opportunities?
Is there a way to remove parts of the organization that have become stagnant and source of burden all the time?
Is there a way to form a network for the sole purpose of fundraising for the projects?
Is there a way to tell donors to stop funding those that have not shown impact/proof of impact so we can get a bigger pie?
Is there a way to teach newer NGOs/non-profits to become market-driven and do not emulate the traditional ones that just ask for monies all the time?
Is there a way to elevate the conversation about fundraising to fulfilling your need to give before you die?
Is there a way to match money per impact, i.e. how many communities did get out from poverty? How many girls went to complete tertiary education? This is happening I know.
Is there a way to create an Uber-like project from the communities in need and then get it funded by people all over the world? When the communities get back on its feet, they get to return the monies.
We need more imagination to deconstruct fundraising for the future.
I have many more questions than answers. I think you get the drift.
What do you think about this question? Share your thoughts.
Things have not changed.
People working in the non-profit see the scarcity, the lack, and the need for more, greater, better, and bigger. They tend to compete for the small pie that is handed out to them by the donors, funders, and whoever holds the purse. It is a game where the small gets smaller and the big gets bigger. When you think that with all the goodness in the sector, cooperation is not normal; scarcity mentality drives brazen competition.
What drives the non-profits to compete? What led to divisive, turfing wars prevalent among them?
To keep the staff, to keep the programs going, to keep the funders happy, to keep the status quo? What is the fall out? Who doesn’t get the pie and who folded up sooner than later? These do not get published but whispered around.
Good competition is good. Bad competition is bad. It is always a race to the bottom. It kills everyone on its path.
If you are small, nobody wants you, you don’t get picked. That is the reality. But smallness is a perspective. Scarcity is a perspective. The small to you is not small to the people and communities that subscribe to them and hold them as part of their tribe. It may be cliché sounding but it is true, the worth of an organization is not based on their net worth but their network.
I take the blue ocean perspective - that success comes not from battling competition but by creating untapped new market spaces for growth. The social sector needs blue ocean, not a sea of red. Making the sea red is not the way to live for social good. We need to create our own blue ocean because at the end of the day, we owe it up to the people we seek to serve. If there is thriving not sinking, the sector will be healthy, whole, and more powerful.