What Is Wrong With This Picture?
How often do you pick up a magazine that shows two almost exact photos? If you locate several items missing from one photo and submit your entry, you may win several hundred dollars.
At first glance, it is hard to see the differences between photos. Over time, with more clarity and focus, plus experience with the photo, variations between items come into view. If you miss these items, the concept of errors comes into play.
Have you ever made an error? In baseball, an error is a misplay by a fielder that allows a batter to reach base or a runner to advance. As the statistics coach and official scorekeeper for an eight-year-old travel baseball team, I have spent many weekends judging whether a play involved errors or hits. Errors can be created in a variety of ways.
At times, people know their subject matter and make errors due to a lack of knowledge or detail. Others make errors due to simple laziness or inattention to detail. Many make errors by not utilizing simple judgment. Have you seen colleagues make mistakes without knowing they are making mistakes? Some errors are easy to identify. Others are complex and not easy to realize. We all make mistakes on a daily basis. The key is knowing when you fail and taking steps not to make the mistake a second time.
With experience, mentoring, common sense and self-auditing, corrections in course can happen as steps are taken. As we learn over time and grow into our jobs, the hope is that the margin of error is reduced. In many ways, this is easier said than done.
Let me illustrate a case study that I experienced. In my role as a consultant, I was invited to participate in a meeting between an executive director of a nonprofit facility, his staff and his boss. The purpose of the meeting was to learn more about a potential capital campaign for his facility. The possibility existed for a few board members to attend. It was assumed the board members were on a development committee.
What happened was the following scenario. The entire board was invited without the executive director's boss's complete knowledge. Little information was shared with any party prior to the meeting. The executive director's boss felt "put on trial" by the board, who asked him a number of questions related and unrelated to the potential campaign. The executive director did a poor job directing the meeting — although he had all of the information. The board seemed in the dark and was asking for help. The staff did not feel supported by the executive director, nor asked in the meeting for advice. The boss was losing faith in the executive director. It was unclear whether or not the executive director wanted to actually consider a capital campaign.
What is wrong with this picture?
The entire situation could have been avoided by following some simple rules:
- The board needed communication and clarity on its role and purpose.
- The executive director needed to give complete information to his boss in advance and not "surprise" him by inviting him to a meeting he was not fully briefed on in regard to meeting purpose, attendees, desired outcome, etc.
- The executive director needed to empower his staff and trust his staff for development success.
- The executive director needed to fully brief me as a consultant so I could have helped him in a positive way.
- The board chair needed to be briefed in advance to make sure all parties were on the same page.
What is your case study like? Does everyone in your orbit see the same picture as you do? Strive to minimize errors by using common sense, being transparent, communicating specific roles for all, and having a strategic plan and "playbook." Plan the work, and work the plan. Make sure there are no missing pieces in the picture you are trying to create! You need all of the support you can get to be totally effective in your nonprofit role.
Duke Haddad, Ed.D., CFRE, is currently associate director of development, director of capital campaigns and director of corporate development for The Salvation Army Indiana Division in Indianapolis. He also serves as president of Duke Haddad and Associates LLC and is a freelance instructor for Nonprofit Web Advisor.
He has been a contributing author to NonProfit PRO since 2008.
He received his doctorate degree from West Virginia University with an emphasis on education administration plus a dissertation on donor characteristics. He received a master’s degree from Marshall University with an emphasis on public administration plus a thesis on annual fund analysis. He secured a bachelor’s degree (cum laude) with an emphasis on marketing/management. He has done post graduate work at the University of Louisville.
Duke has received the Fundraising Executive of the Year Award, from the Association of Fundraising Professionals Indiana Chapter. He also was given the Outstanding West Virginian Award, Kentucky Colonel Award and Sagamore of the Wabash Award from the governors of West Virginia, Kentucky and Indiana, respectively, for his many career contributions in the field of philanthropy.