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Is Your Focus on the Shortcuts or on The Journey?

Seth Godin has a great post on shortcuts:

Hey. It's not so hard. If you make great stuff, people will find you. If you are transparent and accurate and doing what's good for the surfer, people will find you. If you regularly demonstrate knowledge of content that's worth seeking out, people (being selfish) will come, and people (being generous) will tell other people. It turns out that it's easier and faster to do that than to spend all your time on the shortcuts.

There are some airlines that spend all their time dreaming up ways to lobby the government and others that spend all their time making flying a better experience. There are restaurants that dream up ways of charging more for bottled water, and others that work hard to create an experience worth bringing a group to enjoy.

It made me think about nonprofits and outcomes. There are organizations that get the outcomes funders require by manipulating data, focusing on documentation, finding the "easy" win. In my human services/employment and training corner of the world this means screening out the hardest to serve clients because they might not be successful. It means case managers more worried about documenting services  than they are about helping the client become self-sufficient and able to solve their own problems. It means "trolling for placements" (documenting people who found employment without you but can count toward your numbers) rather than actually providing services to help people find a  job. 

Then there are those organizations that don't go for the shortcuts. They focus on providing quality services as the right way to get to the destination. They put their energies into building staff skills, designing programs that work, figuring out what clients need and doing everything they can to give it to them. They know that they have to achieve outcomes, but they aren't going to take shortcuts to get there.

I know it's tempting to look for the quickest route to success, but particularly in the nonprofit arena I think this is seriously damaging. Unlike the for-profit world, we exist to achieve a mission, to do certain things to make people's lives better. When we take shortcuts, this is one of the most egregious betrayals of constituent trust that we can make. We are no longer about our missions but about what it takes to keep money coming in the door. In the for-profit world I think this is something we can live with--after all, companies exist to make a profit. But in the nonprofit world we negate our very reason for being when we focus on the shortcuts rather than on the journey.

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