Yesterday on the Agitator, Roger wrote a post "But, It's Not Industry Standard." This post reminded me of the greek hedgehog parable. "The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing." The basic premise is that the clever fox attempts to catch the hedgehog using a variety of strategies. After hiding, sneaking, pouncing, and chasing the fox is not successful. The one big thing the hedgehog knows is how to defend itself.
Berlin wrote an essay about this, and then the concept was further expounded upon by many including Collins in his book Good to Great, Tetlock Expert Political Judgement, and Kahneman's Thinking Fast and Slow. All of these works are great reads and I highly recommend them.
It was a comment in the post from Kathy Swayze that got my attention. "So you may have a team that doesn’t understand the first thing about fundraisin making important fundraising implementation decisions." This reminded me of the Hedgehog, and the all of the comments on the blog reminded me of the foxes. The comments focused on the different strategies that non-profits could use to improve on the status quo.
The thing is we don't need to convince the foxes to try different strategies, they are already doing this. We have to change the hedgehogs one big thing. For example if the hedgehogs in our industry could adopt the mantra "Hire people who know what they are doing." as their one big thing, then we would all be in better shape.
One way to know if the people making important fundraising decisions know the first thing about fundraising, is to ask them why?
If the answer is because that is how it has been done in the past, or because it is industry standard, then they most likely do not know why they are doing it.
If the answer is based on reason and supported by evidence, then they know why they are doing it.
Let us hope that the hedgehogs can get on board with adopting this one big thing. Then they will hire people who know the first thing about fundraising, and let the foxes work on the many things that can advance our sector.
P.S. If you are interested to know some things about the non profit sector, join Jon Beidermann and I this Thursday, November 16th @ 1 pm to learn what the Fundraising Effectiveness Project's 3rd Quarter report reveals about trends in our sector.