I was eavesdropping on the The Chariot Group (TCG) Sales Team the other day and a few of them were having a conversation about a potential client, a nonprofit organization, and what the leadership team was struggling with in terms of purchasing something from TCG.
The following are summaries of what the leaders offered as “reasons” why they just couldn’t justify an investment into technology:
- Our funders/grantors do not want to see money spent on gadgets.
- Our Board of Directors won’t approve purchases like these if there is a way to get the work done without them.
- Our beneficiaries will not understand why we are spending money and resources on ourselves instead of them.
- It’s easier to do things the way we have always done them and staff probably won’t want to learn something new.
I listened for a bit – enough to get the strong feeling that these types of conversations (those that include the excuses noted above) are commonplace.
Please, before you read on, know that I have worked for a non-profit directly, I have and currently sit on two non-profit Boards, I do quite a bit of pro-bono work for non-profits that pull at my heart strings, and I am an active volunteer for numerous non-profits in which I share values and vision. I offer this information in an effort to communicate that I am a somewhat informed critic about non-profit operations, decision-making and workforce issues and not just an ignorant critic hopping up on her judgmental high horse.
And, lest you think that I believe nonprofit leaders are the only ones offering silly excuses to not invest in their organizations, please know this: I believe many leaders in all industries and sectors are hiding behind excuses.
Ok, back to the post…there I was, totally spying on the Sales Team, feeling a bit edgy and finding myself thinking:
Where the heck is leadership?
Do you really believe your funders don’t want to see money spent on gadgets?
Hmm, are you telling me they are happier seeing the dollars they give your organization go down the toilet because your meetings, efforts and processes are inefficient? May I ask which hurts worse? Pulling your head out of the sand or going down with a sinking ship?
Trust me when I say that the people controlling the purse strings for your organization are probably pleased when you find ways to save their money or at least spend it wisely.
You think your organization’s Board of Directors won’t approve a purchase if the employees can get the work done without it?
I have a couple of ideas, the first of which is to revisit the BoD’s governance. They should be approving a budget, not line items within that budget. Second, if your BoD keeps its fingers in the operational pie, why don’t put on your Manager hat on and show the Board Members the cost analysis of current state versus proposed future state?
Before you tell me they aren’t astute enough to understand this, let me assure you, they are. I’m not suggesting you prepare ridiculously complex budget documents but find the sweet spot. Even a pre-teen can understand a cost analysis that shows how much money is spent on inexpensive but cheaply made shoes that wear out after a few months compared to a slightly more expensive but quality pair that lasts ten times longer.
Do you really believe your beneficiaries will not understand why you need to spend resources on your organization instead of them?
I beg you to have some courage, dear leader, and tell them why! I think you will find they don’t care HOW the result is achieved as much as they care about IF the result is achieved.
You’re more likely to achieve more positive results if you invest in working efficiently. Don’t shoot me but wouldn’t that make your beneficiaries happier with you in addition to assuring your organization remains sustainable?
What makes you think your staff won’t want to learn something new?
I think it is risky to assume they are close minded about these things. I have been working with employees for over twenty years now and last I checked, employees are perfectly capable to learning new things.
Moreover, I have found that employees WANT to learn new things! Employees WANT to be valuable to their employers, and employees WANT to work smarter. While the learning curve is sometimes painful or scary, I believe it is the leader’s job, your job, to encourage and support your employees along the way.
I hope I haven’t offended anyone, especially since this rant is on the TCG site and not on my own site but goodness, I find myself boggled by the excuses many business leaders are offering to not invest in their companies, not invest in their workforce, and not invest in their processes.
At some point, we, as leaders, must detach from our own paradigms and assumptions and flirt with technology and change.