What the Nonprofit Sector Can Learn from Amazon

Amazon’s Six-Page Memo (Article Link)

This is amazing insight into how Amazon presents ideas, distributes information, and utilizes data to make smart and decisive decisions.  As a nonprofit employee who has a closet full of hats, you might read this article and think, “Yeah, it would be nice to have everyone on the same page before important meetings, but we don’t have time for this type of process.” The thing is….by the time you educate your leadership, peers, and board members, you might as well have written your 6-page memo. The other red flag might be “I don’t think attendees will read the document before the meeting.” If it is not part of your organizational culture, then work make it so. If it’s your meeting, start writing the document and sending it out. Then, slowly begin raising your expectations that it will be read prior to each meeting. Think of the benefits of having a meeting where everyone around the table (or on the phone) has the same information, is prepared to discuss and explore, and productivity is at its peak. Wouldn’t that be amazing? Here are some ways the sector could evolve:

Don’t make any decisions without data.

Take time to explore possible outcomes and use your fundraising or constituent database to help project how a decision might positively or negatively change revenue, earned income, budget expenses, constituents served, etc. Anecdotal information should never be enough.

Educate before the meeting.

If you spend 50-70% of your meeting educating your team about a situation, the possible solutions, and/or the challenges, that leaves little time to dig into the actual decision. Spend time drafting a one-pager to your group that explains the challenge or opportunity and let the team know that you’ll be diving right into questions and discussion when the meeting begins.

Ask for more information.

If you are managing a team or individual that is proposing significant change, it is important that you understand the logic and outcomes for each path. Asking the team for clarification, including data, will help everyone understand the reasoning for the proposed change. I understand that board members are volunteers and lead busy lives, but they’ve made a commitment to your organization and its mission. If you have a board member that can only find time to attend the monthly or quarterly meeting, can’t commit time to reading financials and/or documents before the meeting, and is ultimately is unable to productively participate in the board meeting, they should spend time reflecting about whether this role is right for him/her.  You are not asking too much by asking someone to read a document before a meeting. What are some of your meeting productivity tips?

About Mary Hackett

Mary is a fundraiser & operations strategist who specialized in helping development offices create deep, meaningful experiences for their donors.

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