Messing up (especially publicly) is never fun. And I don’t think any nonprofit leader and/or staff would be so aloof to think that they their organizations are mistake free.

Making mistakes is part of both the human and organizational journey.

  • You’re going to let down the very people you’re trying to serve at some point.
  • You’re going to miscommunicate with a volunteer.
  • You’re going to miss an appointment with an important donor.

For years, one of my favorite bloggers has been, Seth Godin. He recently wrote a post called, After the Hiccup. What he had to say about mistakes was such a great reminder for us. Godin says:

“Most customer relationships don't stumble because something went wrong. Your best customers know that mistakes happen.

It's what happens next that can cripple the relationship.

How we recover from a miss is where the possibilities lie. If you're open, engaged and focused on making things better, the door is open to build a resilient, ongoing partnership. Not just for customers, but for all the people we work with and count on.

Too often, we're so focused on not hiccuping, or so filled with shame and blame when we do that we fail to allocate enough emotional labor to do the most important part–making things right. Not with a refund or a basket of fruit, but by truly seeing the other person, understanding what happened and doing the hard work to move forward.”

That’s exactly why one of our staff values, here at The A Group, is “Failure Is Not Final.” We want to do our best to remove the stigma often associated with messing up. Hopefully in the end, this helps keep people from trying to cover them up, get defensive about them, or even worse: play it too safe and miss out on innovation.

So, we want to encourage you. It’s ok to make mistakes sometimes. And it’s crucial for your leadership to build a culture in your nonprofit where mistakes can be owned, gracefully approached, and improved upon. If you begin infusing this into your DNA, I think you’ll quickly see the increased trust you begin to build with your teams, volunteers, and especially your donors.

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