Last month’s Reflections on Underdeveloped: A National Study of Challenges Facing Nonprofit Fundraising spotlighted my personal witness of the successful teamwork of family and friends in post-WWII Baton Rouge, Louisiana. In contrast to seeing how schools, hospitals, churches, and non-profits were built by hometown members of the “Greatest Generation,” Underdeveloped documents “organizational dysfunction” in far-too many fundraising environments across our country today.
What has happened to cause the breakdown in our country’s long tradition of philanthropy? More specifically, what has led to the lack of “capacity, systems, and culture to support our (communities’) fundraising success”?
Nationally recognized business consultant, Patrick Lencioni (who quotes Samuel Johnson), suggests that leaders and organizations need to be “reminded” of what has worked in our past. One of Lencioni’s insightful comments is that meetings are the crux of the problem.
In his February 2016 Table Group blog, The Linchpin of Organizational Health, Lencioni stresses that an organization leader’s meetings should be “outstanding.” “Make them a constant, living example of teamwork, clarity and communication. As unsexy as that may seem, there is no greater predictor of organizational health.”
Perhaps because so many folks who built post-WWII Baton Rouge were engineers and school teachers, they knew how to organize great meetings. I know. Many of them took place in my home!
I saw the long hours my mother and her friends spent getting the agenda and materials ready to ensure that every “i” was dotted and “t” was crossed, well before the meeting date. As a result, their meetings were efficient, focused, honest, and productive. Even better, their meetings were fun, because the committee, which was made up of top-notch professionals, was also made up of friends who trusted each other.
In Lencioni’s October 2013 blog, Thoughts from the Field – Issue #17 – How Trustworthy Are You?, he explains that, “Trust on teams is a measure of the quality of the relationships between team members. It is the glue that holds the team together.”
Trustworthy “glue” made my parents’ and their friends’ teams – and a lot of other hometown teams across our country – work! As professional fundraisers, we need to recall the healthy organizational examples so many of us witnessed growing up. If we are to rebuild a “Culture of Philanthropy,” we must ensure that trusting, honest relationships are the foundation of all our leadership teams. The relationships, which helped our folks stick together to make their efforts work in the mid- to late-20th century, will ensure our success in the 21st century.
In my next post, I will write about my personal experience with successful fundraising meetings and teams. In a follow-up post, I will offer some modest suggestions on how leaders can use new media to facilitate outstanding meetings and cohesive fundraising teams, designed for 21st century success!
About the Writer:
Constance “Connie” F. Anderson, M.Ed. is a multi-generational native of Baton Rouge, and is proud to call Louisiana’s state capital “home.” She recently returned to family and friends, after having spent a wonderful year away as the Executive Director for the Natchitoches Regional Medical Center Foundation. For more information about Connie, or to get in touch with her for a potential fundraising consultation, please contact her at Constance.Anderson@cox.net.