All Aboard The Lemming Train To Underperformance

If I had a nickel for every time I saw a client point to something other nonprofits were doing, asked to use it as a model to copy, yet were completely unaware of how bad said thing was…well…I could simply pay them to stop saying that.

Adaptistration People 093When pointing out why said thing isn’t very good, it’s not uncommon for them to point at a few other groups doing the exact same thing.

Far too often, frequency translates into best practice and in those instances, everyone ends up on the lemming train to underperformance.

Ceci Dadisman published an article at Medium on 4/30/2019 about this very topic that sums up all these frustrations and more. It’s a quick and uplifting read that delivers equal amounts of kvetching and constructive criticism.

As nonprofit admins, we tend to get stuck in our own industry bubble. We are not just competing with other nonprofits in terms of patron dollars, we’re competing with literally every other brand out there.

Our patrons receive thousands of messages a day from brands. They’re not going to say in their minds “Well, this is a nonprofit so I’ll have different expectations”.

Read Unpopular Opinion: Just because other nonprofits are doing it, that doesn’t make it right

About Drew McManus

"I hear that every time you show up to work with an orchestra, people get fired." Those were the first words out of an executive's mouth after her board chair introduced us. That executive is now a dear colleague and friend but the day that consulting contract began with her orchestra, she was convinced I was a hatchet-man brought in by the board to clean house.

I understand where the trepidation comes from as a great deal of my consulting and technology provider work for arts organizations involves due diligence, separating fact from fiction, interpreting spin, as well as performance review and oversight. So yes, sometimes that work results in one or two individuals "aggressively embracing career change" but far more often than not, it reinforces and clarifies exactly what works and why.

In short, it doesn't matter if you know where all the bodies are buried if you can't keep your own clients out of the ground, and I'm fortunate enough to say that for more than 15 years, I've done exactly that for groups of all budget size from Qatar to Kathmandu.

For fun, I write a daily blog about the orchestra business, provide a platform for arts insiders to speak their mind, keep track of what people in this business get paid, help write a satirical cartoon about orchestra life, hack the arts, and love a good coffee drink.

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