Monday, March 18, 2013

Do Your Internal Systems Create A Culture Of Happiness?

Those of us in the nonprofit world have to admit, we just missed it. There are lots of reasons for this, along with future blog posts, but it is freeing to say we just didn't get it. Hop on to amazon and search for books on how to be happy, or just do a google search. As it turns out happiness is kind of a big deal, we all wish to do something of value and that at some level our life matters. These are pretty basic things. I mean who does not wish to have their time on this earth matter? And the other cool thing is when we do something that makes us happy, we tend to do it again and again.

Mihaly Czikszentmihalyi has long been a leader in studying why people are happy. In his book Flow, he helps the reader decipher how we acquire meaning, purpose and happiness in our life. The list of items almost directly align with the reason so many nonprofits exist. Being of value to others, sense of purpose being part of a greater good.

At the end of the day nonprofits exist to change lives. Not only can nonprofits change the lives of the people they serve but if the scientific studies are accurate they also have the power to change the lives of the people who invest in the mission. However, our national statistics suggest we never really accomplish the latter. Our industry stats point out that we never really keep donors long enough to impact their level of purpose or happiness. Without those triggers,  Czikszentmihalyi suggets people do not reach a place called flow. Designing a "flow' like experience for donors is a key aspect in creating a stewardship strategy that actually retains donors.  Designing a culture to deliver a flow like experience can not be attained by looking to our past or current "best"practices. This will require a rethink of how things have always been done.

This is a big topic and one that will be explored in great depth and with concrete take aways at the Donor Retention Bootcamp. It is interesting to note that part of our long term answers may be found in the design of games. Author Jane McGonigal begins to unlock a key ingredient to long term retention in her book "Reality Is Broken".

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