7 habits that the social sector ecosystem can improve on

Actually, this article can also be phrased as, “7 of my favorite pet peeves in the sector”. Note that this is about the sector, so it encompasses funders, NGOs, and foundations. This has come about based on my interactions with various folks over the past year, and I wanted to get this out there. Nothing new or surprising, but all in one place 🙂

  1. Be responsive: Respond to email communication (from known connections) in a timely manner, i.e. within 1 – 2 business days. This is applicable to both NGOs and funders. Your response could indicate you are busy and you will get back to them in the next week or so. It is ok to say: no if you are not interested in pursuing that thread. The communication part is important.
  2. Be specific: If you are seeking a meeting or a connection, explain why you want to meet and/or connect. It makes it easier for everyone, and also serves as a mini-introduction. If you are conducting a webinar, think about: “The top three things I want listeners to walk away with”. Ensure it’s worth their time and your time.
  3. Be prepared: Go into a meeting having done your homework. If a deck was shared, read or skim it before you join the call. If you are meeting a funder, do some background research on both the funder and the foundation so you have a better idea of who/what they fund and do.
  4. Be open and transparent: If you are taking someone’s time to research a specific area, make sure you share your findings. I’ve had to refuse calls with prominent consulting firms in the sector, who want to discuss in detail: technology, open-source, and tools used in the sector, but will not make their research public. Yes, sad but true 🙁
  5. Be honest: I sit in a weird place, as both a funder and a grantee, and hence see both sides of the coin. I’d encourage more NGOs to be upfront with funders on decisions or events that make their life hard. This is a super hard thing to do. I did this last week, but I had to spend a day thinking about how I could phrase the disagreement in as nice a manner as possible. It worked out great, because the funder was super open also, and we had an honest and clear conversation. It is important for all of us grantees, to make things clear to funders, especially when it impacts our organization and/or our work.
  6. Be curious and passionate: It is important for all of us to look outside our own little box and see what others are doing. Attend a webinar or two in areas outside your areas of interest or expertise. Read an article (or two) on a daily basis and keep abreast of the latest happenings. The nice thing about this is you can share your findings with your network many a time. Most of you have received mail from me, stating “You might find this interesting”. See how organizations similar to you are approaching problems, and what you can reuse from their work. The more you enjoy the work you are doing, the more productive you are.
  7. Take care of yourself: This is especially for the young founders out there who are working so hard and long on things they believe in and want to make a difference. Life is short, work will always be there in a never-ending pile. Ensure you spend a few hours a day (at least 4 hours) beyond work and sleep. Read, Exercise, Meditate, Do What You Need to Do, but take a step back every day. I find that solutions to various things I’m dealing with come to me during my long bike rides and walks in the middle of the day, even when I’m actively not thinking about it. (there is lots of research to support this). Your health and well-being are more important to you and your family in the long run.

And here’s some reading material on some other excellent habits and related things

Would love your comments and feedback. Please, “be honest” and “be specific“. Since this is a blog post, “being responsive” does not apply as much

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