“Two professors who study the science of complexity—Brenda Zimmerman of York University and Sholom Glouberman of the University of Toronto—have proposed a distinction among three different kinds of problems in the world: the simple, the complicated, and the complex. Simple problems, they note, are ones like baking a cake from a mix. There is a recipe. Sometimes there are a few basic techniques to learn. But once these are mastered, following the recipe brings a high likelihood of success. Complicated problems are ones like sending a rocket to the moon. They can sometimes be broken down into a series of simple problems. But there is no straightforward recipe. Success frequently requires multiple people, often multiple teams, and specialized expertise. Unanticipated difficulties are frequent. Timing and coordination become serious concerns. Complex problems are ones like raising a child. Once you learn how to send a rocket to the moon, you can repeat the process with other rockets and perfect it. One rocket is like another rocket. But not so with raising a child, the professors point out. Every child is unique. Although raising one child may provide experience, it does not guarantee success with the next child. Expertise is valuable but most certainly not sufficient. Indeed, the next child may require an entirely different approach from the previous one. And this brings up another feature of complex problems: their outcomes remain highly uncertain. Yet we all know that it is possible to raise a child well. It’s complex, that’s all.”
I want to relate this framing to teams and dysfunction. Building and leading a team is a complex problem. Like raising a child well – “It’s complex, that’s all.” In our work at The Suddes Group, we’re often building or reconfiguring teams to create greater funding results. One of the things we’ve observed is the relationship between the simple and complex problems. When teams don’t execute on the simple problems, the complex problems are amplified.
Any funding effort is largely a function of simple problems:(more…)
From the archives, but still relevant today – Read on for how to avoid Vocabulary Wars.
Last week we were with an organization that helps homeless people find and secure permanent housing. The Executive Director of this organization had spent the last 10 years – off and on – trying to get three specific area Foundations ‘on board.’ In that time, some $10K grants had been awarded but for the most part the Foundations said, “We don’t fund projects like yours.”
The mission statements for the foundations were almost identical to that of this homelessness organization. And, each Foundation had funded similar agencies working in the homeless arena.
After some discussion, I realized that the challenge has been vocabulary, not fit. For example:
This organization receives about $1M annually from the government — to be used for ‘capital’. It turned out that ‘capital’ in this definition meant anything that had to do with the actual home or residence (including programs to get into the residence.) In the case of this organization, the ‘home’ was the OBJECTIVE of the program. Kind of hard to end homelessness without a home somewhere in the equation… no?
The Foundations avoided ‘capital’ projects. It turned out the ‘capital’ meant ‘capital campaign’ to the them – bricks and mortar, campaign committees, fancy office chairs, etc.
The organization had structured all of its internal vocabulary based on conversations with the government. These vocabulary words were deal killers with the private foundations who heard “capital campaign” when they wanted to focus on more “programs for the homeless.” (I’m not making this up.)
So, here’s what we did:
We coached the organization’s senior leadership to go back to one of the Foundations. This time the organizations was to ask questions, listen and use the Foundation’s vocabulary to advance a discussion.
The key questions to ask were, “What is the biggest challenge you’re seeing with respect to ending homeless in this area? How are you working to address that challenge?”
The Foundation said it felt a lack of ‘housing opportunities’ were available to the working poor and that it was trying to identify agencies that worked as a catalyst to create more opportunities. Note: The most critical point of this entire story is probably right here. The organization had to LISTEN to the foundation to pull off the right ask.
The organization’s leadership was then able to position its work as a ‘catalyst to create more housing opportunities’.
Both the foundation and the organization leadership described the ensuing conversation as ‘electric’ and ‘exciting.‘ They will be meeting again next month to talk about a multi-year financial partnership.
For 10 years, would-be partners had failed to align for what amounted to a vocabulary war. At times the relationship was even contentious – there were debates and arguments between foundation heads and leaders in this organization about right/wrong and ‘justice’ in funding.
It’s important to realize in this story that at 30,000’ they were in COMPLETE alignment: all parties were trying to end homelessness. The fact that the homeless organization was getting a token $10K here and there was an indicator that there was alignment on the CAUSE (WHY), but not the CASE (WHAT). The relationship was advanced – light speed – by really, really listening and aligning the solution in terms the funder understood.
The only way to avoid a vocabulary war is to listen.
Note: In the actual coaching I said to the ED, “I want you just to listen.. to really understand the foundation’s challenges. When you hear a word you don’t understand, ask them to define it. Keep listening until you can say, ‘wait a minute, we can help solve that!’”.
A critical position on a Sales Team is the Sales Leader.
IF you are committed to a Sales Team then you should identify the Sales Leader – the person who fulfills these duties:
The ultimate PLAYER/COACH: This person has the street cred and is usually the organization’s BEST sales person. This person has also accepted the role of COACH to the team.
Has ultimate ACCOUNTABILITY: This person is 1) accountable for the Sales Team results, and 2) the person to whom each Salesperson is ultimately accountable.
There are also cases in which the Sales Leader can use others to support this function. Example, let’s say your team has ten Salespeople – they can report to a deputy but ULTIMATELY report to the Sales Leader.
The ultimate PLAY CALLER (or referee): If three Sales Team members want different changes to the engagement tool (for instance) the Sales Leader is empowered to LEAD and make-the-call, end-the-dispute, or unite-the-team around a clear decision.
Just having this vocabulary has been powerfully clarifying for organizational leadership responsible for building Sales-Driven Funding Operations.
Early Bird Tickets for our Boot Camp on May 17-18 in Larkspur, CO (just outside of Denver) are available until this Thursday, March 31st. This event will sell out so get your tickets early!
The For Impact Boot Camp is focused on frameworks and skill building – You will leave with the knowledge you need to simplify your message and funding rationale, and take your organization to the next level.
This high-energy, day-and-a-half session covers topics like:
How to execute against a sales process (for major gifts, campaign gifts, transformational gifts, etc.)
How to build and maximize relationships
How to build and lead an effective team
How to ask, close, and follow-up
The Boot Camp is perfect for organizational alums, new hires, or anyone looking to hone individual skills – both personal and professional!
We’re reposting some of OG’s greatest hits – Here he is with the companion audio to the Campaign Manifesto: Take a Quantum Leap. If you know us well you’ve heard the first 5-10 minutes of intro – Feel free to scoot past!
What really is the GOAL of any Development Office, Advancement Office, Development Officer, Hospital Foundation or College Foundation???
In my world, it’s to: WRITE A TRIPLE NET CHECK TO THE (BLUE) ORGANIZATION!
Our role in ‘development’ is to provide as much GREEN INCOME as possible to help SCALE and GROW the BLUE IMPACT!
It’s that simple.
What does ‘Triple Net’ mean? I borrowed it from the real estate industry, where it’s usually referencing a triple net lease. (Read more here: Triple Net)
For us, it means that ALL COST OF FUNDRAISING is deducted from the REVENUE generated by the Development Team (Green People)… therefore, resulting in a triple net (actual check) being ‘written’ to the organization. (Again, the Blue People.)
I don’t want to go too Jack Nicholson on you, but I do want to make this crystal clear.
This has nothing to do with the IRS, accounting, 990 AR’s or whatever.
This has nothing to do with CASE (Council for the Advancement and Support of Education), AFP (Association of Fundraising Professionals), CRFE, etc.
This has nothing to do with what you decide to ‘count’ or not ‘count’ relative to the cost of fundraising.
The only measure of success is determined by how much money (INCOME) you provide to your organization/institution to help them Save Lives, Change Lives, Transform Lives (IMPACT).
Put one more way, our job in ‘Development’ is to FUND THE VISION.
This is getting long, but it’s a really important topic to me at this moment. Here are 3 more BIG thoughts around this subject:
Everyone in our industry knows that the absolute best way to raise the most amount of money… at the least cost… is through ‘MAJOR GIFTS’. This is where we actually sit down, shoulder-to-shoulder, on a visit with a qualified prospect and make a great presentation and ultimately present the opportunity for them to help.
The cost is a ‘nickle on a dollar’ while the ‘special events’, golf outings, mailings, etc. cost is ‘three quarters.’.
I have to tell you that I have seen far too many Development Operations spending one dollar to raise one dollar in the last few years.
I can quickly show anyone reading this the way to raise $1M in the next year, and I will personally guarantee it!
Hire 10 Major Gift Officers, paying them each $100,000 a year to ensure good quality people.
Have them trained at our Boot Camp (on how to make a visit, how to present the opportunity, etc.)
They will each raise $100,000 in real money over the course of the year.
There it is. They just raised $1M for your organization. When you look at that silly scenario, you realize that raising money is not the goal/measurement of a Development Office.
In our world, a Development Officer should be doing a minimum of 10X and ideally 20X their respective ‘cost‘.
‘Cost of Fundraising’ is not some fuzzy math issue. Again, it’s not how you decide to ‘count’. It’s actually a very easy and simple equation:
R – AE = N³C
Revenue – All Expenses = Net, Net, Net Cash. (To be shipped over in a Brink’s truck to the BLUE PEOPLE.)