Grow With the Flow
Bernard Ross is an authority on fundraising in the nonprofit sector and an inspiring public speaker, but he wouldn’t describe himself as a motivator.
In fact, the influential 50-year-old director of the London-based Management Centre thinks the idea of motivating anyone to do anything often is nothing more than a conceit that managers harbor about themselves.
“That’s just marketing talk,” Ross says during an interview. “It’s the stuff that’s written in the back of the brochures.”
The best a manager can do is to create a “framework” in which donors or employees choose whether to be motivated, says Ross, an energized and energizing Scot who speaks from more than 20 years of experience as a successful consultant and strategist.
“How did Nelson Mandela stay in prison for 27 years even though he was beaten by racist guards every day?” Ross asks, referring to the famed leader of the movement that overthrew South Africa’s apartheid system. “They told him to just give up, and he said no. Being motivated is an individual, personal choice.”
Ross likes to get down to cases in discussing his interaction with nonprofits, and the cases with which he has experience often involve high-profile people and organizations. He has acted as a consultant for government ministries, foundations and corporations, and has helped raise several $20 million single gifts for various causes. His book, Breakthrough Thinking for Nonprofit Organizations: Creative Strategies for Extraordinary Results (Jossey-Bass, 2002), was co-written with Clare Segal, the Management Centre’s co-director and Ross’ wife, and is designed to help managers gear up for change in the increasingly competitive nonprofit sector.
Curiouser and curiouser
Ross’s track record as a consultant and his wry, anecdotal speaking style have helped make him a popular figure on the lecture circuit. Rather than professing to motivate managers and board members, he likes to speak of stimulating their curiosity, a quality that can be of great use in creating frameworks conducive to raising money.