Thursday, January 15, 2015

T-Rexes vs. Kangaroos

One of the challenges I often see in our organizations is the diversity of our fundraising workforce. Nope I'm not talking about the fact that we as an industry lack ethnic and socioeconomic diversity in spades, I'm talking about the never ending struggle between two groups. 

Now you're going to have to have a good sense of humor to make it through this blog and a vivid imagination...

Picture this if you will:

These are two opposing forces at work in our fundraising profession. 
Disclaimer: Help me out here by not focusing on the fact that these can be sweeping generalizations and are not true of everyone.

We have the T-Rexes,  wonderful people who have worked in our organizations for a long time (hence the pre-historic bend) and who are generally adverse to change. When a new idea comes, they use their ferocious growl and their short arms to try and bat new ideas down.

Then you have the kangaroos, (note: not the job hoppers) but they've only been at the organization for a while, have worked at other non-profits and come bouncing in with a pouch full of new ideas and limitless energy. They annoy the heck outta the T-Rexes who have seen them bounce in and out and around and the T-Rexes are still there, regardless. 

Have you ever seen a kangaroo fight? They're good at it! And, wow at the persistence (this is a google and youtube moment here) But everyone is so scared of the T-Rex that they won't even attempt it. And this my friends is one of the reasons why our organizations cannot be innovative.

How do we soothe the fears of the T-Rexes and allow the kangaroos to adapt to the culture of the organization without each of them wishing the other extinct. How do we ensure that our culture doesn't run the kangaroo off? (Remember the average tenure of a front line fundraiser is 16 months right now). How do we get each of them to extend their short little arms for an HR appropriate embrace?

The answer is that we must allow each person to understand that whether they hop around the office or stomp around the office, the relationship that matters the most is the one we have with our donors. They are the center of our universe, whether it be a pre-historic swamp, or a grassland down unda.

If we keep our mission and the donor at the center, then the length and effectiveness of our arms matters not. Our eons long divide shortens and we focus on what truly matters, the wonderful experience of philanthropy. Because for all the differences between a T-Rex and a kangaroo, they share a world view that philanthropy matters. And when we point out that shared commonality, the differences begin to fade...

Do you know a T-Rex? A Kangaroo? How do these forces come into play at your organization?
I would love to hear your thoughts.



  1. I am a T-Rex and so is one of my co-workers. Unfortunately, my co-worker used to do the Kangaroo's job, and still thinks her way was better. In some ways, she is right. Rather than spend her energy sharing her expertise to help the Kangaroo, she is using it to influence management to get rid of him. From my point of view, he could use a mentor, not a boxer. I feel it is our job as T-Rexes to assist Kangaroos by sharing our knowledge and mentoring them. Then step back and let them do their jobs. We give them roots and the freedom to use their wings!

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  2. What a fun and thoughtful post. And it contains a lot of truth, too! Thanks, Lynne.

    PS - love the new loGo!

  3. Thank YOU for reading and yes, I live my new logo as well! You're kind!

  4. Choose to mentor, well said Anonymous. Thanks for the thoughtful comment.

  5. Can you imagine the hybrid if these two species mingled their skills and expertise? We might see T-roos and Kanga-rexes ???

  6. Interesting. I suppose I am a T-rex because I've been here a long time, but I actually am eager for and excited by change. I like to offer my experience to the Kangaroos s that I can help implement their cool new ideas and smooth the path for innovation. Where I get frustrated is that everyone assumes that because I've been here forever, that I am resistant to change and tries to hide their ideas from me. I struggle to let my Kangaroo colleagues know that I'm on board!