As donor relations and fundraising professionals, we are often faced with many decisions, some of them in rapid-fire succession. I love decision making, for the most part and I find it is what defines me. I am able to quickly assess a situation and make a decision that can turn the tide and create change. One of my alumni board members enjoys the way I’m able to make “executive decisions” and quickly delineate the direction in which we should head. I consider all of the facts as they are presented to me and then forge a path ahead. That said, it seems like decision making is really easy for me. It is far from easy, I’ve just honed my skills in this area so I can help my organization and many others move forward. Far too often nonprofits are paralyzed by decision making, we find ourselves making the mistake of decision by committee, or we make no decision at all, sort of like ready aim, aim, aim, aim, aim, and we never get to fire.
Decision making isn’t easy by a long shot, we live in a world of grey areas and I am definitely a black and white girl. So here are some of the tools I use to help me make decisions and help others to do so as well.
- I always start with a simple foundation of ethics. Does this feel smarmy to me? Is there a gray area I’m not ethically comfy with? If so, decision is made, avoid it!
- I tend to try to take the emotion and the person out of the decision. Don’t make decisions based on people or emotions. It will always cloud your judgment.
- My mantra remains: If it doesn’t benefit the alumni or the donors, we don’t do it. Follow that and you’ll never go wrong.
- Respect the hierarchy and rank of your organization. If the decision involves someone who is truly above your pay grade, your considerations are amplified.
- Make a pros and cons list. It’s a simple yet effective way to determine the ROI and the impact of your decision. I have these everywhere. I’ve gotten so good at this I can do it in my head.
- Go to people you trust and ask them for their opinion, especially those who are your mentors or work in your industry but not directly in your organization. That outside opinion is so valuable, I use it often, even if sometimes you feel like you are venting, you’re really seeking advice, tap into that network!
- Ask someone who thinks completely differently from you how they would handle it. I’m not exactly known for my huge glug of empathy, so I tend to balance my opinion with that of others who know the softer side, those who think people and emotions first, not systems, strategy and process first. I find they help me think about things I wouldn’t have otherwise.
- Trust your gut. Think with your head, especially at work, but don’t deny what your heart and gut tell you, especially in the case of human resources. You and only you know what the right decision is, and there’s nothing wrong with trusting your gut, your first instinct is usually correct.
What are your decision making tips? Have you ever faced an impossible decision (I’m facing one right now in my personal life)? What is your decision making process and how do you cope with the ramifications? I would love to hear your thoughts.