Is your non-profit organization failing enough?

beth kanter_Movie MondaysWelcome to O.D. Fridays at DonorDreams blog. Every Friday for the foreseeable future we will be looking more closely at a recent post from John Greco’s blog called “johnponders ~ about life at work, mostly” and applying his organizational development messages to the non-profit community.

Yesterday, I started cleaning out my email inbox, which is when I came across a whole bunch of old emails from my friends at They are the folks who publish those amazing FREE “Movie Mondays for Fundraising Professionals“.  I came across Episode #237 featuring one of my favorite social media bloggers Beth Kanter. With a title like “How smart nonprofits are using failures to become more successful,” I couldn’t help but click the link and watch.

At the end of the video, my AH-HA moment was “This will make an amazing ‘O.D. Fridays’ post. All I have to do is pair this video with a post from John’s blog, add a little bit of my non-profit thoughts and PRESTO it will be another great Friday post.” Unfortunately, it hasn’t been that easy. After spending an hour combing through “johnponders ~ about life at work, mostly,” I was hard pressed to find many posts that speak to the idea of failure.

So, I’ve decided to turn this Friday’s post into three segments:

  1. The challenge
  2. The summary
  3. Additional resources

The challenge

I think organizational development is fascinating subject matter, which is why I dedicate my Friday posts to echoing John’s blog or bringing a non-profit flare to his posts. As I wrote in last Friday’s post, non-profits tend to get caught in a starvation cycle, which in my opinion is nothing more than a blatant disregard for investing in organizational development.

However, I find it hard to believe that there aren’t more posts by John about failure and the great things that can come from celebrating it and fighting the stigma associated with it.

So, here is the challenge, John . . . “Your mission if you choose to accept it is: a) how about writing a post or multiple posts about failure and/or b) highlighting successful people or organizations who embraced the idea of failing.

The summary

Beth Kanter shares some incredibly interesting things in the Episode #237 video. For example, people tend to have three typical reactions to failure:

  1. Blame someone else
  2. Blame yourself
  3. Deny it

It is for these three reasons non-profit organizations (and probably all of us) tend to avoid taking risks because the costs associated with failure are huge.

However, Beth is a great storyteller and she is masterful at highlighting examples of where agencies took risks, failed and amazingly great things came from doing so. She speaks to the idea of changing your organizational culture to celebrate failure, which changes the risk/reward calculation and stimulates innovation in your workplace.

If you have six or seven minutes, I strongly encourage you to click-through and listen to what Beth has to say.

Additional resources

As I searched my blog and John’s blog archives for posts about failure, I did find a few things that are related. If you have a few minutes, you may want to click-through the following links and contemplate how your agency’s culture helps or hinders programmatic, fundraising, board governance innovation or limits an individual from reaching their full potential:

Does your non-profit organization celebrate failure? If so, how? If not, why not? Do you have an example of where your failure blossomed into a triumphant success? Please scroll down and share your thoughts and experiences in the comment box. We can all learn from each other.

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847

About DonorDreams

Erik got his start working in the non-profit field immediately upon graduation with his masters degree in 1994. His non-profit management and fundraising experience numbers nearly 20 years. His teachable point of view around resource development is influenced by the work of Penelope Burk and those professionals subscribing to a "donor centered" paradigm. Donors have dreams and it is our responsibility to be dream-makers because donors are not ATMs.

Posted on August 2, 2013, in Fundraising, leadership, nonprofit, organizational development, resource development, technology and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. I sooooo love a challenge of this sort …!

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