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As I sat to write my final post in the series on this year’s DMANF conference in Washington D.C., I started by reflecting on what felt powerful. I quickly found myself thinking about the sessions I attended, the hallway conversations I had, and the vision we all share for a better future for our constituencies. The more I reflected, the more I found myself circling around one theme: Leadership.

The focus for this year’s conference was DISRUPT. At Pursuant, we were thrilled when they announced this. After all, we pride ourselves on being respectfully disruptive both across the industry and with our partners. We embrace disruption, not as a problem or a distraction, but instead, as a necessary catalyst for change. But here’s the thing. As I walked the halls, listened to sessions, and met with people, I found that the focus of disruption was primarily being applied to fundraising tactics. While there is certainly value in doing that, I don’t think they effectively address the core issue, the area where disruption is needed most – our leadership.

We all know that this industry suffers from high turnover. Without well-defined career paths or competitive salaries, we rest heavily on people’s passions to serve a mission. We try to invest in professional development, but we are pressed on time to keep the lights on, and we seem to accept that there is not enough time in the day to focus on growing our current and next generation leaders. This saddens me. It also inspires me and ignites my passion to DISRUPT our approach to leadership. We must expand, stretch, grow, and become the boldest version of ourselves, while also expecting the same from others.

Bold leadership is not an option for our sector; it is a requirement. With each dollar we collect and each constituent we meet, we are entrusted with the most powerful resource of all—hope. We are their hope…for a cure, for shelter, for education. We must stop focusing on our limitations and commit to being bold leaders who will create a future that is worthy of their hope.

To assess our opportunity, let’s look at the for-profit sector. We often envy our for-profit friends, assuming with larger budgets and more resources, we could achieve greater outcomes. We could do more without fearing the repercussions of a misstep. But is the grass greener? If we did have the resources of the for-profit space, would we deploy the bold leadership necessary to take risks and respectfully disrupt the business-as-usual norms within our organizations? With analytics and insights more accessible than ever, we have an opportunity to create a sophisticated and personal experience for each of our constituents and an experience that deepens their connection and satisfaction. Our donors not only want our bold leadership, they are starting to demand it.

With each passing day, the cost of our complacency gets higher. Our industry is not like the for-profit world. Consumers make purchases with clear expectations. They buy a TV with the expectation they will be able to plug it in, connect it to their media source, and enjoy entertainment. Should their expectations not be met, the retailer will be expected to replace the TV or refund the consumer. Donors, however, do not get refunds or replacements when they are dissatisfied. They simply leave us and shift their support to one of the thousands of other organizations available to help them fulfill their desire to make an impact. You don’t have to look far to see proof of this. Industry retention metrics suggest we have work to do here—some of us more than others.

Pursuant attends these great conferences to listen and hear what is working well and learn where gaps exist. Then we try to address them. Based on what we heard at DMANF this year, many of you share our approach to data-driven, relationship-based strategies that engage donors to elevate both revenue and retention. Now we are looking for the subset of you who are truly bold leaders—those of you committed to expanding, stretching, and growing in your leadership to make your biggest impact. If you are one of those leaders, we want to have a conversation with you. Contact our team today.

This is the third and final post in a series of articles about DMANF and its theme: “DISRUPT.” You can catch up on the first one here and the second one here.