Tuesday, November 30, 2010

If you hide your struggles, how can you get help? (Part 6 of 11 NetNon series)

Family Restaurant may have to close after 75 years of operation. In the days of fast food and big chains, small restaurants depend on their community to support them. The Family Restaurant is the poster child of this impact. If you want us to stay open we need you to visit us.

How many times have you seen a story like that, remembered the place fondly and then went to visit to support them?

Budget shortfalls, program delivery challenges or even mistakes can be opportunities to garner support for your organization. But we treat them as shameful things that expose weakness. We hide our problems, we mask the truth and we put on a happy face.

Now don’t get me wrong, there are things that have to be and should be confidential, but at what point do you tell the truth. I know what you are thinking, why do we have to tell the truth, why open up our books and share our dirty secrets? Can’t we just come up with a good slogan, rally a cause and raise money?

That might work, but what if you are missing a different opportunity by hiding information from those that want you to succeed. What if money isn’t the only problem? What if you allowed your supporters inside your walls, get their hands dirty and fix the root causes, not just give money.

Obviously this is easy for me to just type and say, reality is a lot harder. But here is what I would challenge you with. What is your organization’s first thought when it comes to information? Is it, noone can see this until it is approved? Does the question even get asked, should we share this?

The Networked Nonprofit Chapter 6 is all about transparency and a culture of sharing. The point of sharing your struggles isn’t the focus, but it was the core thought that I grabbed onto. The book does a great job of talking about the different types of orgs with sharing: the fortress, transactional and transparent orgs.

Sharing numbers is super easy
Sharing stories takes time
Sharing who you are and the challenges you face takes courage

I am going to share my thoughts about the book "The Networked Nonprofit" by Beth Kanter and Allison Fine over 11 posts, this was part 6 (one for each chapter).  But rather than just tell you what the chapter is about, I am going to share what I learned from it, any reactions and extra thoughts that I would add.  However the big caution I have with this, is that I am just not as smart and experienced as Beth and Allison, so you should probably just buy the book.

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