The Fallacy of “If It Ain’t Broke Don’t Fix It”

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“If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.”  Talk about a phrase that I can’t stand … and I hear it so often in our line of work.  I can’t even bear to type it again.

Why We Hear It So Often

Unfortunately in the field of nonprofit fundraising, I think this has become the mantra for some organizations.

This is especially true for those with a 50+ year history of “always finding a way to make it.” It’s very easy to fall into the trap of thinking that what has worked in the past will always work.

I find this mantra to be especially prevalent in organizations where the founders are still running the organization after 20+ years. They have a lot of mental ownership over the processes and procedures that they created from nothing — they birthed the organization and their baby is perfect!

I also think that some nonprofits actually perpetuate a culture of complacency. I’ll occasionally encounter a general sense among employees that they don’t have to put forth much effort since “we don’t have to turn a profit.” What they are really saying is that they aren’t being motivated to do anything other the bare minimum requirements to keep their jobs.

Why It’s Such A Big Problem

Allowing this phrase to be said at your organization creates a culture that makes the staff and board afraid of change. They are afraid to speak up when they have an idea or see something that needs to be fixed. Even worse it actually discourages innovation.

What’s the Solution?

But there doesn’t have to be the struggle to “always find a way to make it” each year. The answer is actually quite simple: work to develop a culture of innovation. Acknowledge that change is okay. Empower employees to seek, present, implement and test new ideas.

Whether you are an entry level fundraiser, the CEO of a large charity or a new board member, take it upon yourself to find new ideas for your organization. Read for an hour every day (yes … I’m serious). Attend professional development offerings both in the sector and out of it. Learn from nonprofit experts and also follow business experts — adapt what they do to the nonprofit sector and you’ll really be innovative.

That’s how you’ll really fulfill your mission … fix things that aren’t necessarily broken, but could certainly be improved upon, by learning something new every day.

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