Do you recall Cassandra of Greek mythology?
She was granted the power of prophecy by Apollo. But when she refused his advances, he twisted the gift.
She’d still see what was coming. But no one would believe her.
Development staff often have to be the speakers of unfortunate truths.
Like Cassandra, we’re castigated and disbelieved. It doesn’t matter. Speak, we must.
As the people who find funding for our organizations, we’re the bridge between the external and the internal. We talk to donors about the operations and impact of our organizations. And we carry donors’ feedback to our colleagues inside. Our dual perspective allows us to see problems that our co-workers can ignore.
These bridge moments happen all the time.
When reporting to a funder about a program we provide facts and stories to illustrate its effectiveness. And since we’re the communicator, we have an obligation to be sure that those facts and stories are… factual. Fudging those gaps is something of a skill, but not one I’d suggest we cultivate. And if it becomes a necessary skill, we know that’s a big red flag.
When talking with program people in our organization we offer feedback from these same funders and donors. Sometimes it’s useful, sometimes it’s not. We recognize hesitation about hearing or implementing outside suggestions as a potential warning sign.
We’re also often part of the conversation when developing the measurements for programs. Since we’ll be reporting to funders, we need to know: is the information accurate? Are we measuring what needs to be measured? Are we tracking the information that funders are interested in? When there’s hesitance about looking at programs honestly, that’s a bad thing.
When budgets are discussed, we’re in the middle of that conversation as well. (Or should be.) “How much money can you find for this program?” When it’s not enough and we say so, we’re the focus of frustration.
When the board is not performing, we’re the first to see the effects. Along with our executive directors, we’re the staff who interact with the board. We’re present at board meetings.
We see the weak spots. And we certainly know when their involvement in fundraising isn’t what it should be. Again… we see that as the warning sign it is.
Either the people on the board are the wrong people for the job, or we’re not doing a good job communicating with them. Or both. Either way, it’s a problem for the entire organization.
Like Cassandra, we’re often frustrated.
We work in the intersections. Organizational dysfunction can be very clear to us. Why isn’t it so clear to others? We don’t expect to be thanked for presenting inconvenient truths.
But we’re obligated to do it all the same.