By Steve Sullivan

Are you too smart for your own good? Sometimes, perhaps.

The trouble with being smart, especially when you are in a leadership position, is your brain tricks you into thinking you know more than you do.

It’s survival. To confidently do good work you have to believe you know what you’re doing, and you have to be right. Of course you are.


It’s human nature to stop analyzing things we already know, and it’s human nature to think what we know works in our circumstances applies to other circumstances. And it usually does. Not always.

So the brilliant leader thinks fundraising communication should read like a business letter using facts to make a persuasive case. So wrong.

The clever millennial wants to give the website a hip, cool design makeover to attract more donors. So wrong.

The sharp program manager believes awareness will ignite a movement. So wrong.

We see things from our own place in the world of knowledge and it’s really hard to question our own assumptions, because to do so questions our competency.

But every day the fields we work in learn something new that upsets or updates a long-held truth. We’re running flat out all the time but we may be running down the wrong track.

Do we miss doing our best work because we don’t stop, take a step back and reconsider our assumptions?


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Steve Sullivan is passionate about all things nonprofit and digital and started this blog and email newsletter to share the latest strategies and tactics with other marketing, fundraising, communications and membership professionals.


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