In high school you may have read a short story by Shirley Jackson called “The Lottery.” In it, citizens of a small town gather for their annual lottery. Some people are nervous, some are excited, but nearly all are comforted by the predictability of it all. Even though the box from which the lottery drawing is taken is worse for wear, no one has thought to replace it, thinking it’s been suitable all along and still should be. The process is also status quo, good enough because they’re doing things the way they always have in this town. I won’t spoil the rest for you, but it doesn’t end well for an individual in one of the families.
Or, cue Fiddler on the Roof‘s opening song, “Tradition.” (You know you want to watch the video.)
“Because we’ve always done it that way.”
Of course, that can be the reason to continue doing something that’s working well at your nonprofit, but it’s no reason to continue doing something just for the sake of tradition that is no longer serving your organization well.
How do you combat the “because we’ve always done it that way?”
Here are a few tricks to keep your organization honestly introspective:
- Enforce strict term lengths and term limits for your board members. Bringing in new board members each year will ensure that your organization is always being viewed by fresh eyes. (Read more.)
- Next time you’re hiring for a staff position, hire someone who can provide some diversity of opinion for your group. Differ that person by age, race, gender, level of experience, previous experience and life experience.
- When you feel like you’re in a rut with any area of your organization, be it fundraising, programming, communications, facilities, or anything else, consider hiring an expert to take a peek and weigh in. If they can report what they see and give you new things to consider and positive suggestions for any needed change, the value of what you’ll have moving forward is worth whatever they charged.
- Ask your audience. Poll your key volunteers, donors and people who represent both successful and unsuccessful interactions with your organization. What can they see that you can’t? (Read more.)
Compile your results. Be open to the criticism. Celebrate the things you’re doing right.
Then figure out what changes can be made to affect the most positive direction for your organization moving forward.
And let us know how you did.