Community Building Wednesday Whimsy

Trust what I do

I just finished reading Trust by Pete Buttigieg. He is amazingly thoughtful and insightful for a politician. One of his points is that trust is best seen in behavior. A short passage:

If we think of trust as the belief that someone will do what is hoped or promised, the most basic human way to decide whether to trust that person is to notice what they have done before.

Without putting it so eloquently, I followed this maxim with colleagues when we spoke with small-town residents interested in learning about our self-help approach to getting needed water or wastewater improvements. We noted that while we could take five meetings to develop trust that this would mean five more weeks of their carrying or boiling water. Instead, how about we each (residents and my organization) promise the other something and meet again. We will trust each other if we deliver. That worked.

Pete goes on to describe many more philosophical dimensions of trust in the book but none take away anything from the simple truth of trusting what I do more than what I say. As he notes, this is about performance. We speak of our “trusty” knife, friend, or steed because they are predictably there for us.

Many other words can also boil down to behaviors. Holler if you want my take on behavioral definitions of empowerment, self-esteem, collaboration, and other abstract terms. And trust me if I respond!

Community Building

Results are Easy. Right?

My apologies for going dark for several weeks. A house sale and move consumed me. I am now in Bradenton, FL, for the winter. Here’s a thought from my colleague, Robyn Faucy-Washington, CEO of Neuro Challenge Foundation for Parkinson’s. Robyn faced and overcame the challenges of conventional thinking for large convenings.

Results are Easy. Right?

Recently, Susie Bowie, Executive Director of the Manatee Community Foundation, forwarded me a blog post from Seth Godin titled “The Gift of Results.” An excerpt from the article read “Results show up. They’re easy to see, easy to measure and they persist.” Wow! Isn’t that the truth?

So why do we get distracted from the focus on results? Why are so many organizations guided by tradition rather than accomplishment?

I had the opportunity to participate in a Results 1 st Prototype Class in 2018. Hal Williams, creator of Results 1st, guided the class for me and 9 other local non-profit leaders. In the opening session, Hal asked me what my organization’s results were. I proceeded to proudly tell him that we served 2,000 people annually in 5 counties with over 6,000 points of service. Hal replied, “So what?” I was slightly offended (maybe more than slightly- I may have gasped and grabbed my chest) and confused. Those numbers were impressive for a small non-profit organization.

The “so what” means – what are those 2,000 people getting from your organization? Are your programs inspiring behavior changes in your clients? What gains are they achieving?

My Results 1st Prototype Class was very timely as I was creating an Expo—a new one-day educational event for people with Parkinson’s and their caregivers. I wanted it to make a huge difference to those coming from near and far to attend. So I began with this question – what do we most want participants to both remember and use?

As I created every aspect of the event from topics, speakers, exhibitors, marketing, layout, volunteers, activities, and revenue generation- I became laser-focused on the results I wanted participants to gain. Not the traditional keynotes, panels and other sessions that leave people milling at the back of the room and speakers rarely connecting with what other speakers say.

My first shock was in learning how much energy was needed to counter and tune out those who take the usual conference conventions as sacred. How strong are the traditions of togetherness!

The Results 1st approach led to the following gains for the 1,400 Parkinson’s Expo participants:

  • 76% learned about new medication and treatment options
  • 90% learned about Parkinson’s specific resources to help them manage their disease
  • 90% felt more empowered to move forward

Our Parkinson’s Expo continues to be the largest event of its kind in the country with over 1,400 attendees. People come and come back because they get value. As a result of the attendance numbers, the sponsors of the Expo also come back. The net funds from Expo sponsorships have allowed Neuro Challenge to expand its programs to serve more people in the Parkinson’s community.

Seth is right- results are easy. But only when we realize that while we define what we do, our clients define what they want to get. A simple premise that has turned my world upside down. I now start with results in order to end there.

Community Building leadership Wednesday Whimsy

The Result View of Trust

My colleague Robyn Faucy-Washington just emailed me the new Donor Trust Report produced by the Better Business Bureau.  Based on surveys, it looks at changes in trust factors that influence charitable gifts.  The top-line finding: “The importance of financial ratios as a signal of trust has declined steadily, from 35 percent in December 2017 to 18.6 percent in August 2020.  Meanwhile, third party evaluations (36 percent) and name recognition (34 percent) have become relatively more significant than accomplishments shared by the organization (30 percent) or financial ratios (19 percent.)”  The report also noted a finding that younger generations attribute less importance to trust before giving and that overall, the importance placed on trust has dropped from 73 percent to 63.6 percent.

While these findings are interesting in their own right, the article renews my question: Just what is trust? I can for example, trust a group for money, time, or other form of relationship because:

–it spends all its money in legal ways.

–it offers the programs it says it does 

–it is fully compliant with all local, state, and federal requirements

–it is led by people I know and admire

–it has a wonderful mission, vision, and values statement

–the community considers it a valuable resource

–it has won awards from groups in which I have confidence

What’s missing in this list? Accomplishment! In my view, the most important factor is a trust that the group will achieve strong results for those it helps.  That trust is earned by behavior. I either get a report with clear evidence of high accomplishment or I do not.

As with most subjects, establishing trust becomes simpler, faster, and more accurate in a result frame.  An example comes from my work at The Rensselaerville Institute using a self-help approach to community revitalization.   We started with a tool that let the community—and us—assess level of capacity and readiness for the major work involved in this approach. In the Appalachian small village of Stump Creek, Pennsylvania, we met with the residents not long after a national foundation had been in town pitching a leadership development program. In that program, several Saturdays were devoted to “trust building” among residents and between the village and the town and county governments.  The residents declined the program. We arrived and were asked if we had a similar approach. No, I said.  We like to boil this down a simple question: Do we keep our promises to each other?  If each group pledges to do something before we meet again and then does it, we will trust each other. If one of us says, “so sorry we did not get around to doing that” we will not.

These residents were mighty tired of drinking unsafe water from shallow wells and two persons promised they would spark a survey to see how many residents would commit to giving at least 50 hours of time and pay up to $20 per month for good water from a central supply.   We promised we would talk to the Appalachian Regional Commission about possible grant support. We both kept our word. Not only did we have trust, but we also had emerging commitments to make the project happen.  In a results frame, trust is about what you do more than what you think.