By Chris Gandy
When I moved from the corporate world to the not for profit sector in 1986 I was greeted by a large number of well wishers who made me feel very ambivalent about my decision.
Bob, a seasoned CEO of an aged care facility was typical of the people I met in those early days when he welcomed me with a comment that went something like this:
“Great to see some new blood in the sector, but gee your timing is lousy”
“Why is that” I asked.
“Well I have never seen it so tough for not for profits” Bob said gravely.
Being relatively young and having survived the structural shocks in the Australian Steel Industry in the early 80’s I wasn’t put off by these prophets of doom. I had already learnt that the throwaway line:
“Things have never been so bad” was really code for …”Things have never been so different”.
So I adopted the philosophy that if we were going to survive these “so bad” times we had to develop methods that forecast, managed and embraced change.
Despite my upbeat approach, I have been struck by how this “things have never been so bad” view of the world is so ingrained in the sector. Honestly, I can’t recall a year since 86 that someone somewhere in the NFP land hasn’t said to me in all sincerity:
“Things have never been so bad”.
As recently as last week I again experienced my “groundhog day” when, Adrian, the Chair of a local Youth Service bemoaned to me that: “Things have never been so bad”.
He was a little taken aback to say the least when I replied:
“Rubbish, things have never been so good!”
Adrian looked at me as if I was some sort of lunatic but I pressed on to support my outrageous claim.
I explained that Cause & Effective’s view of the NFP world is that mission is critical but never enough. To survive, and indeed thrive, in these “so bad” times his organisation’s top priority should be to find and engage the right people. And, I further pointed out, and it may come as shock but:
“The right people have never been so abundant, accessible and affordable!”
I pointed out that as a result of a host of factors our workforce is changing dramatically placing a wonderful array of talent within reach of his organisation. For his organisation to experience the best of times it simply needed to learn how to find, engage and manage this talent – and of course offered Cause & Effective’s assistance in this regard.
Adrian thanked me and said he would think about it. I guess if he is telling people next month that “things have never been so bad for our organisation” it will suggest he has decided to ignore my advice – which will be personally disappointing but a far bigger loss for his Cause!
About Chris: Chris Gandy is the founder and a director of Cause and Effective – a provider of contingent resourcing and leadership search services to cause-based organisations.