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How to Avoid the “New and Shiny” Syndrome

A friend of mine loves gadgets. He’s the first to get the newest phone, video game, camera, or other electronic device that comes onto the market. He’s the perfect example of someone who has the “New and Shiny” Syndrome (The Syndrome).

We can also apply this term to a nonprofit organization, or rather, to its leadership. The “New and Shiny” Syndrome happens when leadership has no clear plans or strategies to raise money, recruit board members or staff, or develop sustainable programs.

Here are some of the symptoms of The Syndrome and how to treat it:

Chasing the Money: A foundation or corporation has announced a new fund to alleviate XX. Your nonprofit has a program that addresses something similar, but not really. Your Executive Director wants you to submit a proposal.

Treatment: You show your Executive Director the criteria and point out that your program is not a good match. Hopefully, they understand this is not a good use of staff time.

Jumping From One Program to the Next: This is similar to Chasing the Money. Your leadership is concerned that program outcomes are not being met. She wants to pivot to another program that she thinks is more popular with donors.

Treatment: Work with your program director to identify the problem. Maybe the program has run its course and is no longer needed. Maybe there are not enough resources to successfully implement the program. Present your analysis, along with a solution, to your leader before she, he, they abandons the program.

Adding Projects That Don’t Align With Your Mission: If one project is good, then a dozen are better, or so the rationale goes. We know that’s not true, but some people wholeheartedly believe this. If your organization is a food bank, then why not also distribute clothing and shoes. That could work with the right kind of infrastructure but adding job training probably would not align with your mission.

Treatment: A strategic plan that outlines the planned growth for the organization is one of the best ways to keep everyone focused. Update the plan as needed and follow the plan.

Unhappy Donors and Other Funders: Donors support their passion. If a donor or other funder is supporting your mission, something they believe in, you cannot suddenly change course to chase the next New and Shiny. If you do, your organization will lose credibility, your reputation as a leader and fundraiser will be damaged, and the people you serve will be abandoned.

Treatment: As one of the guiding forces within your organization, be aware of the New and Shiny Syndrome, help others overcome it and stay true to your course.

Dynamic Development Strategies can help. We offer coaching and fundraising services for our nonprofit clients. We specialize in startup and smaller nonprofits because we understand your challenges. Please contact us for more information.

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