Make sure to check out the all-new AdmittingFailure.com, a Canadian website where nonprofits bare their hearts in an effort to save other nonprofits from similar heartbreak.
Several really good failures have been posted so far, including one that might more aptly be titled, “The Fundraising Experience of Most Nonprofit Organizations I Have Met”:
We did not fully recognize the time constraints of the members going overseas, some of whom volunteered to run some of the short-term events. During the summer, only one of the short-term activities was run. The activity run, a fundraising concert, was quite successful; however, it raised only half of what we anticipated, due to lower than expected ticket sales.
The company fundraising challenge was a major component of the plan; however, it did not generate income as quickly as expected. We failed to recognize the amount of knowledge about the fundraising challenge that would be lost as members went overseas. Additionally, we did not recognize the amount of work still needed before the campaign would produce donations. We encountered difficultly developing the website and preparing presentations to be given at participating companies. While work continues on the campaign, and we remain optimistic that it will provide long-term, stable income, it has yet to generate any income.
The last line is great: Even amidst failure, hope springs eternal. Charlie Brown, meet football; football, Charlie Brown.
Still, the author of that particular post works for an engineering charity, so no surprise to see that his prescription for solution is pretty detailed and well reasoned:
We have learned that before committing to supporting an overseas placement, it is ideal to have all or most of the money available. If we do not have the money immediately available, we need to have a concrete, specific fundraising plan that recognizes personal time constraints. We need firm commitments from those who volunteer to run fundraising activities. We should work on increasing committed membership, allowing a wider distribution of responsibility, making activity organization easier and increasing our fundraising capacity. Finally, we need better processes for handing over of portfolios and information as members leave the chapter or go overseas.
So make sure to check out AdmittingFailure.com. Confess your own failure there.
And then tune into the next blog post as I confess my own.
I wish organizations – nonprofits, and everyone else – would admit their failure and leave it at that. Just post and move on. Or maybe, as a compromise (so the folks that admit failure have a chance to save face also), post the lessons learned on a different section of the site. Separate, but still accessible.
The lessons learned from failure are the most important part. The process that you go through is the key to finding something useful on the other side. By having an organization acknowledge a failure and explain the lessons they took away from it in the same breath, they have done all the hard work. I haven’t learned anything. Their mistake is easier to dismiss as their mistake. It also easy for me to make the same mistake, only to realize too late I could avoided it.
Admitting failure is necessary to success and innovation . Learning from mistakes is the part that is most valuable. Let the rest of us have some opportunity to learn too.
That’s a good point, Brian–a lot of times our admission of failure (not only in nonprofits but in marriage, among friends, and even in the confessional) is clouded by us rushing to share all that we’ve learned from the failure, and we do this to psychologically cushion the blow, e.g., “Let me share with you my failure but quickly assure you that I’m smarter than my failure made me look.”
So here’s to unadulterated announcements of failure! May their tribe increase!