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Confidence Is Hard to Come by

How do you find the confidence to step forward and do something when surrounded by uncertainty?

The first question you must ask is, “From where do I want my confidence to come?” Your confidence can come from knowing your decision is the best possible decision or knowing that you have control of the situation if things go wrong.

All decisions are time sensitive. Any decision you can make at this moment is based upon the available information. Therefore, when new information becomes available previous decisions may be suboptimal or brilliant. Since no one accurately predicts the future, either outcome (suboptimal or brilliant) is more luck that wisdom. For that reason, having confidence in any decision made by anyone seems risky.

While the new information might radically change previous decisions, if you have control of the situation, you can make the adjustments necessary. Knowing that you have control provides confidence to make the next set of important decisions that will realign your nonprofit with the ever-changing world.

Confidence comes from understanding the situation. That implies a solid understanding of all of the variables and their likely effect on decisions and the mission.

What are the top 10 variables that are likely to affect the success of your nonprofit? Some examples are: the opening, closing, and struggling of similar nonprofits in the area; the quality of related public services; demographic and economic trends; local attitude toward the social problems related to your mission; your nonprofit’s reputation with the public; donor trends; and leadership stability, program quality, and staff skills in your nonprofit. You can add to the list or delete from it depending on your specific situation.

Knowing how any decision will affect or be affected by changes in one or more of the variables provides an understanding of the risk involved in the decision. The level of control is inversely related to the level of risk.

If you want to lower your risk and raise your confidence, invite a cross-section of your stakeholders to review your decision before you finalize it. Including one or more stakeholders who understand or represent an area of risk will help ensure you have a sound understanding of the risk and how to cope with likely changes.

Next Step:

Determine the key variables that will affect your decision before you make it

Engage stakeholders in your risk assessment and contingent planning process

Monitor the key variables after you make the decision to ensure you can proactively respond to changes

Engaging stakeholders before making the decision increases the sustainability of your nonprofit. It lowers the risk and increases your understanding of the vulnerability of the decision. It creates a sense of ownership among your stakeholders which will increase support for the decision (advocacy, funding, advice, etc.). The extra support is always nice when a problem arises. You know the experts to talk to when problems arise and they already have an understanding of the decision.

If you want to go fast, go by yourself. If you want to go strong, go with others. If the others you go with are stakeholders who endorsed your decision, you will go strong and with a high level of confidence.

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