I’m on a bit of a syndrome kick after reading Tara’s article last week where she talks about nonprofits and “Precious Snowflake Syndrome” – which I find hilarious and so true.
This week’s syndrome is something I know we’ve all suffered from at some point. Shiny Object Syndrome is another malady that has long permeated the nonprofit sector. Symptoms include:
- Your boss in a tizzy over the newest social media fad
- Banging your head against a wall when the marketing committee changes strategy…again
- Feelings of Hulk-like destruction building inside you when you hear the words “gala” or “you should just crowdfund” (by the way, can we just admit that crowdfunding is fundraising with a cooler name??)
Shiny Object Syndrome has the ability to lead well meaning nonprofits meandering through the woods in the hopes that they’re going to stumble upon the yellow brick road that will lead them to a magical place where all their dreams come true.
Money! Marketing! A perfect Board! All laid out nice and pretty.
We all know deep down that that’s not going to happen. And the more you change your strategy, the more you start over again with something new without giving the first idea time to test, the longer that yellow brick road gets. The farther you end up away from the place that you want to be.
I’m not immune to this, remember that time my text to give campaign flopped? It was shiny and pretty and seemed perfect. And then it wasn’t.
Treatments for Shiny Object Syndrome:
Take a deep breathe. I’m not kidding. Don’t let the anxiety of having to jump on that new shiny thing before it’s gone cause you to make a decision about a new venture or direction without thinking it through. You don’t have to immediately react – I promise it will still be there tomorrow!
Be open, but be smart. Some ideas that fall in your lap are good ones – great ones even, and you should be open to hearing them out and flexible enough to try them if they seem like a good fit. But the reality is, not everything that worked brilliantly for Nonprofit X is going to work for your nonprofit. You’re smart, you do this stuff for a living, no one knows your organization, your people, better than you – believe in that and make a good decision about what will work best for your mission.
Don’t get discouraged. Maybe you’ve already chased a shiny object and it turned out to be a lot of fairy dust like I did. That’s ok! That’s life. You learn from it, make some notes for the next people who will sit where you are now, and then you try again. It’ll hurt – your pride mostly – but you’ll get over it!
There is a difference between being willing to try new things, test them out and being ok with failure, and chasing every idea that comes through the door. I remember a few years ago sitting in a Board meeting as a staff member when the Board President said “We really need to be on this Twitter thing” and feeling 12 sets of eyes turn to me as the youngest in the room, because surely I knew what that was (I didn’t…) and could make that happen. That “shiny object” turned out to be a good idea, but I understand that pressure that sometimes comes along with the people around you telling you or your boss that you “have to do this.” It takes strength to throw back questions like “why?” and “how will it help achieve our mission?”
Have you ever suffered from Shiny Object Syndrome?