Being Uncomfortable

“I’m not at all comfortable – and I absolutely think we should do it!”

This was a Board member’s immediate response to the Chair’s question: “Are we comfortable with Dr. McNeal’s campaign plan recommendations?”

I was giving a presentation with recommendations to this Board and leadership team to assist them with their campaign planning.  Without question, the proposed campaign represented the largest and most comprehensive fundraising effort the organization had ever undertaken.  Even before the presentation, I knew there may be resistance to the ambitious undertaking.

And, while there was some resistance, other Board members saw my planning recommendations as opportunities.  Opportunities to learn and grow as Board members and opportunities to do more to advance the organization than had been done over the last 30 years.

At the end of the presentation there was vigorous discussion.  Some liked the direction an ambitious campaign would take the organization.  Other Board members struggled with the idea of stretching themselves and stretching the organization.  What specific expectations would a campaign bring for me as a Board member?  How might my giving have to change?  What if the campaign were to be unsuccessful?  These and other questions, I’m sure, were at the heart of some of the anxiety.

Finally, the Board Chair asked everyone if they were “comfortable” with my recommendations.

The quoted answer above was the only response.  Within a minute or two the Board unanimously approved moving forward with the campaign plans.

“I’m not at all comfortable – and I absolutely think we should do it!”

How many times in work – or even in life – have we failed to try something different, decided not to attempt a new strategy, or talked ourselves out of a fresh approach simply because we weren’t comfortable?  Perhaps you are an annual giving director who could be more creative with your direct mail and direct response campaigns.  Or maybe you are a major gifts officer who has argued for setting a timid annual visit goal.  Or possibly, you are a vice president who has been indecisive about a personnel change that you know needs to be made.

If you want the kind of results that are deserved by your institution and those you serve, you can’t always do what is comfortable.  Stretching can make you uncomfortable – and you absolutely should do it.

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