by George Rattin, Associate Vice President, HUB Philanthropic Solutions
I was thinking recently about effecting “real” change and remembered this story. I was an administrator at an organization and involved in the budgeting process. As I was responsible for developing the Development revenue and expense budget, I really created what I thought was a smart, budget proposal that was frugal in spending but realistically aggressive on the revenue side. As we went around the table and shared our individual budgets, people seemed to agree with my rationale. However, by the end of the meeting we had created the first draft of our organization’s budget and there was a revenue shortfall. This organization’s approach to balancing the budget was to add the substantial revenue shortfall to Development. In the words of one member of the budget committee, “We will just need to raise more money.” I am all for pushing our revenue generating segments to be as efficient and effective as possible, however, the shortfall added to the revenue goals for the Development arm were unrealistic and set that organization up for failure. I will spare you the conversations and heated arguments trying to get the team to be realistic, because when thinking back , I thought, “How could this organization substantially (and quickly) transform its giving and increase its revenue generation for the good of the organization? ”
The reality is that change takes time. Several factors that affected that organization’s progress were institutional leadership turnover, significantly varied demands upon the Development Department and a misunderstanding that development revenue was like a light switch that you could turn on and off. What I have learned from experience and that is backed up by research is that change takes time. To effect real and substantial change it takes a period of stability and a plan that promotes cultivation, engagement and stewardship. This is not a surprise to most, however, in my experience, many organizations do not behave as if they have this understanding. What follows are three things that will enhance your organization’s ability to make real changes:
- Stability – Stability at the institutional leader level (in place at least two years), Development leader level and with the Board of Directors is crucial to making progress. Good Development is based upon relationships. It is impossible to force a relationship, they are built and strengthened over time. The ideal period of stability is 4-5 years to have the best chance to truly effect change.
- Commitment – To effect change, the organization must commit to creating a culture that builds on the behaviors that will allow the organization to grow. Is their an understanding of where the organization is going ? Do all the members understand their role in achieving this vision? This is the commitment it takes to truely realize change.
- Bold action – Change is hard. However, it takes bold action to break the status quo and move forward in a different direction. It takes audacity.
Change takes time, stability, commitment and audacity. When these things come together, great things can be realized and your organization will change for the better.