Easier Said Than Done: Death by Committee
Whoever said a camel is a horse designed by a committee gave committees too much credit.
If a committee tried to design a horse, it wouldn’t end up with a strong, useful, if inelegant, animal. It would produce a mound of tin cans and fish skeletons.
That’s what committees do: They change clarity into confusion and quality into crap.
In fundraising, the committee that really screws things up is the one that reviews fundraising materials.
Committees are meant to bring together expertise. What they actually do is pool incompetence. In the looking-glass world of committees, each member’s incompetence gets full hearing:
- There’s always someone who says, “Too much copy. No one will read it.”
- There’s always a smart person who says, “Too emotional. People won’t respond. Make it more intellectual.”
- Then there’s an educated person who says, “You’re talking down to the donors. They’ll be insulted.”
- There’s at least one “formalizer.” You know the type: short words like “gift” become long words like “donation,” and colloquial words like “kids” become formal words like “children.” And you can’t start a sentence with a conjunction. Or use sentence fragments. Ever.
- There’s usually a brand cop with a straitjacket interpretation of brand standards.
- Then there’s someone who’s afraid of change.
- And someone else who’s allergic to anything that’s been done before.
- Have I mentioned lawyers? If you have one of those on the committee — well, let’s just start singing your project’s requiem right now.
If all that weren’t enough, there’s a group dynamic in many committees: To prove you’re intelligent, relevant or on top of things, you have to have opinions. Lots of them. But in an atmosphere where personal opinion pulls as much weight as facts or expertise, more opinions are a very bad thing.
It’s OK to have a blind spot or two. But the fundraising review committee mixes everyone’s poorly supported opinions into a toxic cocktail that can kill your chances for fundraising success.