Mistakes Happen

October 19, 2017

From typos to having to pull your foot out of your mouth; we’ve all been there. The opportunity to mess up is with us from when we wake (mismatched socks, anyone?) until we close our eyes (forget to set an alarm?). Working in nonprofits means doing a lot of work with tight resources. While we strive for excellence, mistakes are inevitable.

While it is true that “to err is human,” you can often frame mistakes as opportunities to learn, grow, and engage. Research suggests that resilience in the face of setbacks is the true key to success – a combination of passion and perseverance that Angela Duckworth describes as “grit” and Carol Dwek sees fostered through a “growth mindset.”

What does this look like? It depends on the day. For Sarah Gaines, CNE’s Director of Philanthropy, it looked like a lot of phone calls. Years ago, Sarah happily and successfully (she thought) got out what she expected to be an impactful solicitation. Unfortunately, she soon heard from a donor and realized that her personalized notes were being delivered, but to all the wrong recipients!

Sarah called all seventy-three donors. It hadn’t been on her work plan for the week. And it wasn’t a quick exercise. But here is what happened: in calling to apologize for her embarrassing mistake, Sarah had the chance to connect with key donors on a personal and human basis. And she never made that mistake again.

Here’s what it looks like at CNE. Recently we sent out the wrong newsletter. And then we sent out the right one, without the message acknowledging our mistake. A double-goof. And we are sorry about that! We talked about it. We learned. We made a plan to do it differently. And it got us thinking: building resiliency in ourselves and in our community means learning how to move forward through challenges and how to develop our growth mindset.

We are in it with you. So remember when you need to figure out a path forward, CNE Membership Services are just a phone call away, and that it is not whether you make a mistake, but what you do with it that matters.

© Center for Nonprofit Excellence 2017
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