Organizational Speed Bumps: A Call to Innovation and Creativity

By Bill Crouch and Mike Carter


As fundraisers, how many times have we seen organizations suffer from a lack of vision, energy, and creativity? It’s not uncommon for this apathy or lack of passion to stem from staff members, other organization leaders, and even the donor base. Frequently, we’ve heard that our donors are “exhausted” or “fatigued” and that we “cannot go back to them again,” without doing more harm than good.

Both of us are former college presidents, and we have witnessed our organizations get into a state of “self-satisfaction” too frequently when we were in a critical capital campaign. At times, this translated into a lack of energy for our staff, clients, and even our donor base. 

On top of this, staff and other workers too often rely on the previous year’s calendar and repeat the “same ole, same ole,” which generates a sense of routinization that can dull everyone’s enthusiasm for the campaign.


It’s time for something fresh when this happens, or it may lead to a negative trend in your organization that will immediately influence the campaign.

We discovered that one of the most useful strategies was to build an “organizational speed bump!” It is time to create something new, not previously experienced or planned on the calendar, or in the pipeline of projects.  This can force the organization to take notice of where they are in their plans, goals, and objectives. 

For example, look for an event, a person, a couple, or a historical time that can be translated into an event and experience that can help ignite a new passion for the mission of the organization. For us, it was finding an exciting new opportunity an alumnus was involved with or finding a historical date that had previously been ignored, but needed to be recognized.

Here are specific organizational speed bump ideas that you can build into your calendar:

  • CELEBRATE A couple or AN individual who has done tremendous work for the cause
  • CREATE AN exciting new opportunity the organization can make a difference in (e.g. a new company in town, a program that can address an unmet need in the community)
  • DISCOVER A historical anniversary that can be observed by others (e.g., the 100th birthday of a person who has done “noteworthy” work for your organization)
  • PROMOTE A sporting event that can be used to help attract clients, supporters, and donors
  • INVITE GUESTS TO AN entertainment-focused day (e.g., a remake of a Broadway play or Hollywood show)
  • INTRODUCE A NEW OR REDISCOVERED music-themed event

No doubt, some people are more creative than others. We suggest you find those individuals who can create something meaningful and bring a fresh sense of purpose to the campaign.  This new and creative thinking inserted into a campaign causes an “organizational speed bump” to occur.

The strategy may also be to use face-to-face and virtual team retreats, as well as other activities that get employees and campaign leaders out of their normal routines, to foster creative thinking that might produce new and exciting possibilities for contributors and donors to pledge!

When you reach the stage in your campaign where a colleague points out, “Oh, you’re suggesting a speed bump!”, you’ve succeeded in fostering an organizational culture that is receptive to new ideas and raises the level of campaign expectation and execution.

Don’t forget to maximize social media and online platforms as ways to introduce new concepts and ideas as well. In today’s world, creativity can translate into both “buzz” and increased contributions for your organization!

Best wishes in creating new “speed bumps”, since the success of your campaign rests on vision, energy, and accomplishment of your mission.

Nonprofit professionals at BrightDot are assisting an array of organizations as they move through emerging issues in fundraising. Many lessons are being learned daily as to what effective strategies work and when to implement them. We stand ready to assist so that a given organizational mission can be accomplished!


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