Admiring The Butterfly

“We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.”  — Maya Angelou

Imagine for a minute the challenge of the caterpillar.  Would you allow yourself to believe you could be transformed from a multi-legged, slow moving insect into a beautiful winged flyer?

In order to achieve such an audacious goal, the caterpillar must allow its current life to end so that its impressive future life can begin.  It must give up what it knows in order to live out the full purpose of its life.  The two lives – that of caterpillar and butterfly – can not co-exist.

In order to achieve something great, our behavior must change.  This behavior change is usually preceded by a change in our thinking.  Want to raise double the amount in your annual fund within the next 3 years?  Depending on how mature your program is, you will probably have to employ very different strategies than you’ve used in the past.  Want to double your alumni giving participation percentage?  It’s going to take a very different course of action than you’ve used to get to your current level of alumni giving.

Audacious goals also mean that you will most likely have to give up something.  Perhaps something you think is vital.  What are the initiatives, the strategies, the tasks you’ve been employing that simply won’t get you where you need to go?  Like the caterpillar, you have to be willing to give up what you know in order to achieve your dream.

It’s easy to look at examples of institutions that are doing this work well and admire them.  It’s like admiring the butterfly.  We see larger amounts of money being raised, higher percentages of giving, etc.  And sometimes, as if we are admiring the butterfly, we don’t even allow ourselves the chance to think about how our institution could achieve such goals.  We might even go so far as to make excuses as to why our institution can’t achieve those outcomes.  “Our alums aren’t wealthy.”  “We don’t have the same kind of giving culture.”  “Our community just isn’t that generous.”

Instead, we should look at these “butterfly institutions” and get a better understanding of their chrysalis of transformation which made their results possible.  And most importantly, we should find out what they decided to give up — to abandon — to reach their goals?

Doing fundamentally next year what you did this year won’t get you radically different results.  You will have to scrap some initiatives and add new methodologies.  And usually the first thing a development team has to abandon in order to achieve an audacious goal is the belief that they can’t do it.


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