Thursday, October 27, 2016

Death By Sameness

We have the good fortune to work every day with generous individuals. All who have decided to give to us. Many of these folks earned their money through hard work and perseverance. Some of these generous souls are entrepreneurs. I was reminded recently that the word entrepreneur actually translates to "bearer of risk". These folks at one point took a risk on themselves, on an idea on something that wasn't yet concrete and leapt. They also did the same when they gave generously to our organizations. Out of the millions of nonprofits they chose yours, they may have given more than was comfortable or struck out to support a new initiative. 

And what did we do? We did more of the same. We have the opportunity to work with brilliant entrepreneurs and these bearers of risk have such high hopes for us. But most of our organizations are so risk adverse, we behave like hamsters on a wheel. This mindset is in direct contradiction to what they want, desire, and value. When will we embrace the non default position and move ourselves into a calculated risk culture? I'm not asking to break all the rules here, but gosh wouldn't it be nice to see us not produce a "newsletter" all about us and instead an email with stories of impact of those generous donors? 

Maybe it's time for a revolution, maybe it's time to take small steps to let donors know that we aren't just behemoths of past tense. Let's take one thing as an example, go pull out your business card. Does it have a fax number on it? 


When's the last time you received a fax that wasn't a vacation offer for a timeshare? You see, this is just one symptom of the problem. We don't change because we're not forced to. But entrepreneurs are constantly in flux, looking for the better solution, seeking out opportunities to improve and excel, if for no other reason than the bottom line.

Wanna see a good idea die? Assign it to a nonprofit task force or committee. It will come out sterilized and somewhat morphed but won't spark large enough to light a match. Take a risk, be bold! When's the last time you met an innovative entrepreneur who said "The success of my company and ideas is directly tied to a decision made by committee". Or the classic, "I'm successful because I just kept doing the same thing year after year." Nope. Doesn't happen. Innovation relies on a certain amount of risk. Aren't your donors worth you taking a leap for? What's a crazy good idea you're desperate to implement. When will you stick your neck out for your donors and say, today, we do it differently? Your donors are waiting.

I would love to hear about your risk taking and how you've been entrepreneurial in your work.
Comment below about how you've done it or the challenges you face from those who are risk adverse!



  1. Thank you Lynne! Wow, you always get me thinking and "responding to ACTION" to do things in a different and fresh new way. This article "Death By Sameness" stopped me from sending out our newsletter this morning; and provoked me to rename the articles in it called "Good Report - Read Bryan's Story of Loss and Hope" to rename the article giving attention to our donors; who are the REAL ONES making these stories of hope a reality. Thank you Lynne for what YOU GIVE!

    1. Another great article. However, my institution (a museum) still does receive faxes now and again :) We received one yesterday from a donor who chose that way to send his feedback about a gift.