A systems problem requires a systems solution

Following is an excerpt from our new whitepaper, Inside Out Fundraising: How to Create a Culture of Philanthropy By Treating Systems Instead of Symptoms. It is available here as a free download.


Success will require transformational change. That means addressing the

challenge systemically, working it from a variety of angles. Robert Gass has

developed a “Wheel of Change” model that he applies to transformational

change efforts. He argues that change comes only from working three

interdependent spheres simultaneously:

  • Hearts and Minds, which he defines as the attitudes, beliefs and

judgments that are invisible, yet which drive a great deal of behavior. The

belief among non-fundraisers that fundraisers are a little bit sleazy or are

“selling snake oil,” is a common example. Also common are deeply held and

rarely articulated conflicting emotions about money and wealth.

  • Behavior, which includes what people actually do. Who communicates with

whom? How do people collaborate…or compete? Who’s in the meeting and

who’s left out? How are conflicts resolved?

  • Structure, which includes the organizational chart, strategic plans,

technology infrastructure, spending budget, personnel policies, donation

attribution rules, and, notably, fundraising targets.

The dysfunction that hampers so many organizations’ fundraising success

is the product of all of these elements working together. Undoing them will

require non profit practioners to open their minds to concerted, coordinated

and ongoing change at all three levels.