Thinking Critically, Thinking Differently

A while ago I had a number of high-dollar amount solicitations all within a few weeks of each other. I was struck by a number of thoughtful questions that our volunteer solicitation teams had about the proposal and the solicitation plan. Many of their questions helped us to take a step back and rethink some of our initial presuppositions and ideas. This conversation re-enforced the value of thinking critically.

Going into a solicitation, we do not need to have every single question answered, but we should be able to defend why we are asking donors for funding. Many of our volunteers’ questions included educating them about the mechanics of the organization and the industry. Some of the terms we used were different than the terms they used, and it helped to talk from both perspectives. We changed our terms to reflect language that the donor would better understand.

As nonprofit professionals, we have unique and sometimes different perspectives because we are inside the organization. We often know what the actual obstacles are to making a difference, not just the perceived obstacles. The above conversation gave me and my co-workers a chance to discuss ideas and strategies we had not yet thought about. We also had a chance to explain why the areas of proposed funding were important to ongoing success which changed volunteers’ perspectives on the needs of the organization.

The plan and proposals we developed benefited because of this give and take conversation. This was a great experience for the organization and for the volunteers involved. Our organizations should do this more often. Do you have a story of a conversation that provided you with perspective on your organization?

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One Response to Thinking Critically, Thinking Differently

  1. Janice Chan says:

    I recently had a conversation with a friend of a friend who is volunteering with some nonprofits and was curious about the process of applying for grants. This guy happens to be on his second start-up company. I explained the process to him and his first remark was, “So it’s kind of like asking VC’s for funding except the goal isn’t to get rich?” And that analogy instantly made things clear for him. And perhaps down the road, it will help me make my case to someone else who has a background in start-ups or venture capital.

    With regard to any type of communication, however, whether it’s a presentation or a proposal or even your website, it’s always helpful to get someone who is outside the organization (or at least not so close to the project) to take a look. It’s like proofreading: you know what you mean, and that’s why someone else will catch when you write “I thick” instead of “I think” even though you’ve read it 20 times.

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