08 Feb Tami’s Blog: The Potential Downsides of Success
A friend asked me this week: “How are things at work?”
“Well,” I said, taking a long pause. “Things are actually really great.”
You may wonder why I was a little hesitant about telling her how great things are at RMHC-KC. The fact is, I think there are sometimes some downsides that come with success.
We’re doing really well right now, and that’s exciting. There are also the realities and risks that come with that success. Not to mention the public perceptions.
One of my jobs as a leader is to be aware of all the implications of our public and private messaging, to ensure we are always clear: we are only succeeding because of our sacred mission, amazing staff, best-in-class board, supportive volunteers, generous donors, hospital partners, and precious families who trust us to care for them in their most important times.
Here are a few examples of what’s going really well for us right now at RMHC-KC, and the potential flip sides of those bright spots:
Our volunteers are back. // And as our volunteer openings fill up quickly, it can be a bad look. There’s a risk of it being a turn-off … people think “you must not need me.” The truth is, we need volunteers to fill over 35 spots each week, and there’s room for everyone!
Our Spark of Hope dinner gala exceeded expectations, and we raised $1M. // Now we have to do it again. We’re excited about our event chairs, sponsors, and plans for the big night. (October 14, mark your calendar!) And we need our supporters to show up with generosity again — because our families and our mission can’t afford to go backwards.
Our employees are happy and doing a great job of being out in the community, forming relationships for the benefit of RMHC-KC. // Their visibility creates terrific opportunities for our charity and our work. And it also creates a risk of those same employees being poached — recruited or hired by another company. Luckily, we have a strong, magnetic, “sticky” organizational culture; our staff doesn’t often leave — which creates another good news/flip side scenario:
We have a very high employee retention rate. // Which means there aren’t a lot of opportunities for long-term, high-performing employees to move up with promotions. (Although at RMHC-KC, moving “up” on the organization chart really moves moving “down”, as we have an inverted org chart which shows me as CEO at the bottom, and families with sick children at the top. We are all here to serve them.)
We served a lot of families last year — more than ever. // And our physical spaces show it. There’s a toll on our facilities, our furniture, our supplies, our stuff. Think about what your house looks like when you have a toddler — or a teenager! With 91 families almost every night, it takes a lot of work and money to keep up with improvements and overall maintenance. It’s also true that serving more families means more expenses overall, and it’s a lot easier to raise money for a new garden or salon than it is to launch a campaign to pay utility bills.
Kansas City is experiencing a lot of exciting growth. // Which means there’s more competition in the philanthropic space. A lot of entities are raising money for a lot of worthy causes. We have to make sure the RMHC-KC message and our need doesn’t get lost in all the noise.
Supporters (individual and corporate, big and small) give to RMHC-KC because they see and understand that sick children need their families close. // The word “need” is important there — donors support RMHC-KC because they know that we, and the families we serve, need them to. A risk of our success can be a misperception that we don’t “need” support as much as we used to. Strength can carry the risk of triggering indifference, and I am always aware that our ability to deliver this mission, and care for families with sick children, is dependent on our supporters coming back, time and again.
I’ve been in a job I love for almost eight years now. // People have been hearing from me in this role for a while, and often associate the charity with me. I’m honored to represent RMHC-KC in public and in private, but I also want to be sure it’s always about the mission and the families we serve, not about me. And I try to make sure that the core of my message never strays, but that I find new ways and words to draw people into the magic that is RMHC-KC.
And I’m still as passionate as ever. // I’m confident that doing this work has literally made me a better person — I think RMHC-KC has that effect on most of us. I’m also human, and need to make sure that I decompress and take care of myself so that I can continue to give my all to the kids and families at Ronald McDonald House Charities of Kansas City, to the staff and volunteers who serve them, and to continue engaging this generous community that makes our mission and our success possible.