It’s (not) the Economy, Stupid!

View from an airplane window at the wings and flying over a scenic landscape of green hills and rivers

There is a common theme of blame and dis-empowerment in our culture today–“It’s the economy”– that we use to let ourselves off the hook for failing to deliver on our goals. Blame the economy! I get that the economy is tough…really tough for many… and yet, there is a tendency to overstate the importance of the economy weighing us down so we do not have to address the truth of what might really be weighing us down. The external factors of life are rarely what bring us down; how we respond to them is the issue.

Hard truth? The economy is not necessarily the reason why your non-profit is struggling to meet its fundraising goals. The economy is not necessarily the reason why you have yet to find a job. The economy is not necessarily the reason your organization is losing customers or members or market share. When we fixate on the economy, we are assuring ourselves that for another period of time–days, weeks, months, and even years–we will not be taking responsibility for the condition of our organizations, budgets, lives, relationships, job searches, market share.

The economy is bad. What’s worse is ignoring our individual and collective power and responsibility to do anything about our situations while in this economy.

Think about it: Not meeting your fundraising goals can be about having a poor or a poorly articulated case for giving. Maybe your fundraising staff and volunteers are poor fundraisers. Maybe you don’t understand your donors and what motivates their giving to you. Perhaps you don’t understand what your philanthropic competition is doing to set itself apart from you. What if your strategy is just bad? What if your services are uninspired, tired, or not needed any longer? Perhaps you are not asking the right people in the right way and for the right amount of money or the right kind of support. What have you done to address staffing, training, infrastructure, and data? Maybe you’re talkers and not doers (many fundraisers love to talk about what donors should be doing with their money!).

Think about it: Maybe your work experience is deficient for the jobs that interest you. Maybe you aren’t networking actively enough. Maybe you spend too much time looking for work from your computer and not enough time engaging and enrolling people face-to-face in your job search. Maybe your skills are out of date. Maybe your interview skills are weak and offer up a poor reflection of who you really are and the value you can bring the organization. Maybe you are unprepared. Perhaps your deficiencies (we all have them) are leading and your successes (we all have them) are trailing behind in your search. Maybe your resume is poorly written and badly designed. It could be the suit, the hairstyle, the perfume/aftershave, the scuffed shoes, the accessories. Perhaps you are surrounded with too many people commiserating with you (telling you the economy is really the reason why you are not landing a job) and not telling you useful truths (for example, you appear desperate and there are typos in your cover letter) for fear of upsetting you.

Think about it: Maybe your organization is poorly managed or your services are badly presented to your public. Maybe your organization’s failure to strategically plan in the past has come to haunt your present. Maybe your competition is just better than you at delivering the same services. Perhaps your customer/member/donor services have become stale, insincere, and underwhelming. Perhaps your public sees an investment to an organization other than yours is a better investment. Maybe you have gone adrift of your mission and your core business principles have failed. What if you are resistant to acting upon complaints, criticism, or feedback that you pretend to seek? Maybe your lapsed members are just not that into you any longer.

When we tend to repeat the external reasons why our success eludes us (it’s the economy!), it is generally a good indication that we are unaware or unwilling to look at our own contribution. Yes, the economy is bad…often our own contributions are worse!

Think about it! And then do something!


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Gary M. Groth, MS, PCC, CPCC

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