Michele Martin over at The Bamboo Project has written a series of posts about Scarcity vs Abundance thinking and the impact of each mindset on an organization. The first posting got my brain thinking in all sorts of directions and as a result it has been sitting by my computer for a few days now as I wrestled with the concepts.
One of the danger areas that I have seen over the years is when abundance thinking takes hold to the extreme. It goes something like this:
- Organization A experience a sudden rise in donors and donations due to some external event. Because of it’s participation in the event it generates a fair bit of favorable press.
- Organization A is able to retain the majority of its donors over the years and experience multiple years of ongoing growth in income.
- Organization A attributes the ongoing growth to the way it does business and slowly a mindset of “we do it this way” sets in.
- Organization A does not evaluate internal processes because there is “no need to change” the way things are done.
- Organization A begins to focus on perfection rather than speed of response. Everything starts to take twice as long to accomplish.
- Organization A starts to experience a decline in donation income and works hard to do more of the same because that has always worked in the past.
While I would agree that many if not most non-profits wrestle more with scarcity thinking than they do with abundance thinking, I think there is a hidden danger that lurks around the corner for those non-profits that start to think of themselves as being “successful” as measured by donations. There tends to be a lack of learning, a resistance to change, and I would even suggest that fiefdom building can be just as significant. (Maybe it is a function of refusing to believe that there is abundance.)
So how do we avoid that mentality. Consider the following:
- Measure what you manage. Is this activity that we are engaging in really necessary?
- Encourage staff to think out loud. Don’t assume that your receptionist has nothing to offer.
- Don’t be afraid of making mistakes. This can’t be emphasized enough. Mistakes teach.
- A wise man once said, “Doing the same things over and over expecting to reach a different result is the definition of foolishness.” Look for new and more efficient ways to accomplish the work that needs to be accomplished.
- Look for ways to give. Michele nailed this one with this post.
I think non-profits will always be prone to scarcity thinking as they wrestle with tight budgets and lagging income. But it doesn’t have to be that way. There is more value in collaborating than in competing. And I would dare to say, maybe the time has come for some non-profits to fold into others and create better synergy. A little radical I suppose.