Conference Roundup: Perseverance, Persistence Prevail in Getting Buy-in From the Top
Sometimes the best ideas and feedback come from colleagues in the nonprofit world.
That’s why Dane Grams, online strategy director for the Human Rights Campaign, a national lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender political organization, reached out to attendees of the DMA Nonprofit Federation 2008 Nonprofit Leadership Summit even before they arrived in Palm Beach, Fla., last week for the conference.
Preparing for the session, “Leading Our Leaders: How Do I Get Buy-In from the Top for My Great Ideas, Innovation Strategies and Fearless Fundraising Efforts?” Grams and his colleague Ann Crowley, membership director at HRC, conducted a pre-conference survey to find out what obstacles nonprofit staffers face when trying to gain support from their superiors to run with fresh, new and sometimes risky ideas.
The survey showed that when it comes to getting an idea through to top stakeholders, it’s not easy. Some of the biggest obstacles are — not surprisingly — time, budget, bureaucracy, indecisiveness and fear of change.
But, Grams said, results showed that professionals do get over the hurdles through perseverance, by giving presentations to senior leadership, by calling in a third party like a consultant to back up the ideas and with some good, old-fashioned luck.
When facing naysayers, respondents to the survey suggested engaging them in the process, listening and compromising, hitting them with “ironclad research and data” or simply cutting them out of the process.
Finally, Grams offered these suggestions for getting the OK for new ideas:
1. Make time. If you can’t, no one else will.
2. Sell your idea! If you don’t believe it, no one else will.
3. Build consensus with key stakeholders and senior staff.
4. Utilize outsiders like consultants, colleagues and case studies.
5. Arm yourself with facts and figures.
6. Start small — prove you can deliver and then go for the gusto.
7. Offer options … [and remember that] multiple choice doesn’t have to include “no.”
8. When it really matters, choose face-to-face conversation [rather than phone or e-mail].
9. Bottom line: What’s the cost? What’s the return?
10. Don’t give up! Perseverance and persistence always prevail.