The single worst reason to do anything is a phrase that gets repeated in boardrooms and nonprofit strategy meetings on a daily basis:
Because it’s always been done this way.
It’s a phrase that’s used to justify anything and everything. It’s the answer to any question or challenge that could result in change or innovation. As Seth Godin notes so perceptively in this blog post, it’s also the ultimate cop out, a way to cover up the deep-seated fear that permeates through organizations:
“Why is the format of the board meeting like this? Why do we always structure our annual conference like this? Why is this our policy? Why do we let him decide these issues? Why is this the price?
The real answer is, ’Because if someone changes it, that someone will be responsible for what happens.’”
Nonprofit Leaders Need To Be More Like Billy Beane
In my opinion, Moneyball is one of the best sports movies all time. In the movie, there’s a scene where Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane is confronted by his head scout who wonders why he is trying to shake up a system that has been in place for decades. Billy responds with a clap of the hands and a simple answer: “Adapt or die.”
It’s a harsh truth, but a real one. On a long enough timeline, any way of doing things will lose its effectiveness. Someone will always come up with a newer or better way of achieving the same results—or producing even better results. If that person isn’t you, it will be someone else.
That’s why nonprofits leaders need to learn from the steps Billy Beane took to “change the game”:
- He recognized the old way wasn’t working. Change is hard for all of us. Oftentimes, the hardest part about it is simply admitting the old way just isn’t working anymore. Once you do that, you free yourself to move forward and embrace change.
- He overcame a lot of opposition. As in the nonprofit world, Billy Beane faced an industry not just leery of change, but actively resistant to it. He had to combat “because it’s always been this way” at every turn in order to try something new.
- He put his reputation on the line to stand up for a new way of thinking. Instituting change is never easy. It requires strong leadership and a “won’t back down” mentality. Every great innovation needs a champion to push it through and show people what it can do.
It’s Time for Nonprofit Leaders to Change the Fundraising Game
It doesn’t spoil the movie Moneyball at all to tell you that the innovative approach Billy Beane took with the Oakland Athletics—the one he had to fight tooth and nail for—has now become standard practice in major league baseball. It really did change the game.
Nonprofit leaders who want to change the fundraising game have to take a similar approach. You have to be ready to embrace innovation, overcome the opposition, and push it forward.
As Seth Godin stated: “If someone changes it, that someone will be responsible for what happens.” All nonprofit leaders should aim to be that someone.
I’d love to know: What is one potential area of your organization you might need to reconsider in light of the changing landscape of fundraising?