image courtesy of the irrepressible & very cool Hugh Macleod
At first I was excited about Charlotte's Mission Possible - a heady and well sanctioned effort to..
"Charlotte Mission Possible is a joint effort by local media outlets to help Charlotte residents understand the charitable needs of the community, and find ways to help."
...I thought hey what a great idea - after all the hullabaloo about our United Way transgressions (unforgivable) and us almost losing our (awesome) Charlotte Symphony - this is what we need - some fresh, bold, think different ideas. The premise was to solicit ideas bottom up and top down -- you needn't be a non profit pro to fix this problem - and so hundreds of people submitted ideas which were dutifully highlighted in the Charlotte Observer. I have to say the majority of the ideas (I read) were rational and prudent. Alas for me...I don't remember saying "Hey that idea is NUTS, but it just might work!"
Therein lies the problem.
Non Profits in my experience act (they must) a bit lot like For Profits - after all they're both seeking revenue/donations and must dutifully manage acquisition costs of said revenue/donations. Just think about how similar the Campaign goals (NP) and Sales goals (FP) really are - both strive for/want more at the lowest cost. That's OK, I just think NPs need to come to terms with this reality, embrace it. Get comfortable employing "for profit" strategies towards a higher purpose.
So why do I think Mission Possible will drift into Mission Improbable? After months of effort a few ideas boiled down - one being a central website as The Charlotte Observer reports..."Put them (Charlotte charities) all on one Web site where people can find them quickly to donate or volunteer." hmmm...not a bad "possible" idea - which is subsequently doused with the cold water of "improbability"...(from the article)
"The technology for a "nonprofit portal" certainly exists. But experts say charities have shown little interest in making it happen.
Here's why: If one Web site accepts donations for all local charities, that site's owner could control the donor lists. And experts say charities, which treat such lists like gold, rarely share such information.
"It sounds like a good idea, but nobody wants their donors to go anywhere else," said Chris Meade, executive director of the Charlotte office of NPower, a national nonprofit that helps charities harness technology. He called charities' reluctance to pool donor information "the big hairy monster" blocking online cooperation."
Blah fear Blah fear Blah fear... As Chris Meade says.."charities' reluctance to pool donor information (is the) "the big hairy monster". Think about that as if alzhiemers is going to steal away the Amnesty International donor (and so what if it does it works in reverse too) I think this kind of fear (unfounded) thwarts change and worse cuts short any budding initiative at the very first stumble or sign of failure - never letting ideas morph and grow. How many times have you (will you) hear "We tried social media but the ROI wasn't there, it's not for us."
Too many charities do covet and protect those gilded lists mostly so they can send out another inane/annoying email blast or 10,000 innocuous (or worse) mailers. (sure they work sometimes but then so does phishing sometimes). They won't inhabit (they visit) Twitter and Facebook for fear of saying the wrong thing or worse they don't know what to say**. Ultimately they do what has worked before (safe) even though it no longer works (risky). Kinda like the old adage..."Nobody ever got fired for buying IBM. But now you sure can get your head handed to you over a misstep on Twitter @fired!
**here's the perfect Tweet by the way: just talked with @bestfundraiser read what she's doing to break through donor fatigue here at greatidea.com
So back to Mission Possible - what did we expect - take some potentially great "grassroots" ideas > boil them down > add a committee/panel/board > take the teeth out - refine the ideas > present idea for approval >> REPEAT.
No wonder I never found the gumption (spirited initiative) to submit Buttons of Hope to Mission Possible - I thought about it and then considered the number of ways it would be pooh poohed and ultimately shot down - like so many think different ideas.
Oh and just for fun here's my take on the Mission Possible statement...
"Charlotte Mission Possible is a joint an all out effort by local media outlets to help wake up Charlotte residents understand to the shared charitable needs of the their community. We will find ways to help search out and implement the boldest most innovative ways to be the difference."