When it comes to marketing and fundraising, does your organization remember anything?

Why that advocacy campaign three years ago failed, or worked? What your donors have said about you in probably each and every focus group or poll you’ve ever conducted? What has already been learned from your online or direct mail or telemarketing testing? Why “they” chose “Path A” the last time?

Non-profits are terrible at building and utilizing institutional memory. For lots of reasons … too busy to reflect or capture critical information, inadequate databases or expertise in using them, not knowing what questions to ask, staff and agency turnover, the bigger buzz surrounding anything “new,” and perhaps worst of all … “if it didn’t happen on my watch, it didn’t happen.”

Sure, some lessons need to be re-examined, some tactics need to be refreshed, and occasionally some cages need to be rattled. Times and circumstances do change, sometimes requiring revised strategies.

Still, take a moment now and test your own institutional memory. Write down five or ten lessons you’ve carried away from your organization’s unique performance over the last 2-3 years … lessons you would act upon today or next time. Also ask, “Does my department or organization take deliberate steps to build institutional memory?”

I’ve always fancied myself a change agent. But, I’ve also always felt that a “fresh look” began with the question: “Why did “they” do what they did?”

We’d love to hear some of your answers! Especially if you feel, “The name of the game is change, stupid!”

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