By Chris Gandy
Social media is awash with articles on the biggest challenges facing not-for-profits and how to address them. Normally you find that the identified headaches just happens to be in the area of expertise of the person writing the article. So fundraising gurus say engaging and retaining donors is the issue of today. Management development people claim it is all about leadership. Marketing hot shots blog, email and tweet that effective use of social media is the number 1 challenge facing the sector, etc.
For a CEO the effect of all this free advice, however, can be somewhat off putting and at times quite distracting. So much so that I often think a not-for-profit CEO is rather like Richard Bucket in the classic British sit-com “Keeping Up Appearances”.
Whenever Richard and Hyacinth are out driving (which is almost every episode), Hyacinth is continually giving helpful advice:
“Be careful of the pedestrian” (on the footpath)
“Mind the cow dear” (in the paddock)
“Watch the tree” (in someone’s garden)
The end result of all this “free advice” is that Richard is totally distracted and doesn’t know where to look next. Eventually he becomes almost dysfunctional. From a viewer’s perspective you get to the point where you mutter to yourself whenever they are preparing for an outing:
“No. Tell her to drive, Richard!”
Which in a roundabout way brings us back to the point of this post.
That not-for-profits face multiple challenges is undeniable. The other fact is that there is no end of well-intentioned advice as to how to tackle them. However, what the “advice industry” fails to appreciate is that the sector’s biggest problem is not a willingness to embrace new ideas but actually a major lack of resources to implement them.
CEO’s know what needs to be done – they have armies of people advising on this. For them, what is missing are the answers to such fundamental questions as:
“Which piece of advice do we heed first?”
“How do we put it into action?”
“Who is going to do it?”
“How do we pay for it?”
It was with this reality in mind that we established Cause and Effective. You see, we have all worked in the sector and have all received wonderful advice in our time. And in the face of this have responded at various times like Richard Bucket – pulled our hat more tightly over our heads, gripped the steering wheel so tightly it almost breaks, concentrated dead ahead, slowed the car down and made a mental note to have our blood pressured checked some point in the future. This response was neither helpful for us nor, far more importantly, our organisations mission but we had little choice as we were figuratively continually bumping our heads up against a low resourcing ceiling.
And here’s the irony. While the need for expert resources has never been greater, nor has the supply. So many wonderfully qualified and experienced executives and subject matter experts are now available due to a variety of reasons such as the GFC, developments in technology, lifestyle choices and conscious career decisions for altruistic reasons. The challenge we have taken up is to match the need with the resource in an affordable manner.
This has exercised our minds for a while at Cause and Effective and to us the answer lies in the approach, the key elements of which are:
- Keeping projects small, achievable, but socially impactful.
- Talking in days, sometimes weeks, never in months
- Assigning our most experienced Associate to the organisation to minimize project time
- Developing an action plan with a clear budget and responsibilities
- Concentrating on DOING! – We don’t just talk about it. We enact the plan. Get it done, make it happen, build staff capacity and provide on-going coaching assistance.
- Managing as much of the project as possible from off-site.
Regrettably we are yet to come up with a “silver bullet” with regards to the costs and don’t do pro bono. All we can promise is high calibre work at very reasonable rates. We have no owners to pay nor corporate overheads to feed switch puts us well ahead of the price game. Certainly, in terms of value for money we believe we are hard to beat!
So, if you are up to the eye-balls with advice and think the time is right to start doing in an affordable manner, contact us here for a chat.
About the author: Chris Gandy MAPS is a Director of Cause and Effective (www.causeandeffective.info)