Sometimes you have to take a leap of faith. Sometimes you have to take a risk. I often say the eight most expensive words in the English language are “But we have always done it that way!” If we continue to do what we have always done, we will continue to get the same results.
Recently, I was hired to present an educational session to a board of directors of a charity. It was not a big national, nor was it a “zero staff all volunteer” organization. It was a typical non-profit or charity that we deal with every day. The Board had been pushing staff to bring in more money. They were looking at sponsorship as part of their revenue mix and enhancing their sponsorship program to generate more money.
Basically, they wanted to move from a “corner of the desk” sponsorship program where they sold (arm twisted suppliers or volunteers contacts and connections—sound familiar?) to where they were running a professional program and generating substantially more revenue. I told them they would have to do things differently—that they would have to change the way they were doing things. I also told them they would need to make an investment! Implementing a well-run profitable sponsorship marketing program does not happen overnight. It is not just about making more asks with the stock packages that have not been working for a decade, but that you still pitch year in and year out. It means investing in tools, knowledge, and staff. This was not one of those “warm and fuzzy” presentations telling them what they wanted to hear. It was telling them what they already knew in their gut, but needed someone from the outside to say that they must either make these investments or continue struggling along as they have been!
I like the quote by Amazon’s CEO Jeff Bezos: “Recognize that there are times when you cannot put a toe in the water; you have to leap in with both feet. You have to say, ‘This is going to be expensive—and that means we are going to have to make it work’…. it is the Institutional Yes.” To grow, we have to say yes when it feels like saying no is the safe thing to do, but not the right thing to do!
I don’t care if you are a non-profit, a charity, sport organization, municipality, or on the other side of the table as a sponsor. You must recognize there are times you have to make the tough decisions. You have to take a risk. That may be with regard to investing in a sponsorship program like this charity, or a new CEO and increased overhead, land purchase, or software upgrade. Weigh and balance the risk of making the investment and not making it. Are you on that board to be a status quo person or were you asked to be there because of your leadership skills? Understand the risk if you don’t make the investment. I am not sure who to attribute this quote to, but here it is:
CFO: “What if we spend all this money to further train our staff and they leave?”
CEO: “What if we don’t spend the money and they stay?”
Next time you sit at that board table and have to make a risky investment, remember that quote. You can apply it to anything; it doesn’t have to be about training.
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