Creating Sustainable Change Begins With One Question: Why?

“Why?” is a small, but powerful question we often forget to ask. However, it can make the difference between addressing a symptom vs the cause. That difference is the key to creating sustainable change.

Addressing symptoms will only result in temporary change. However, when we find out why those symptoms are showing up in the first place, we can begin to create a thoughtful and strategic plan that will determine how we can improve. This will set us up for success and help create that sustainable change we strive for.

My favorite thing about asking “Why?” is that it can be used to either fix a problem or even take your organization from good to great. If there is something you think your organization does amazingly well, ask yourself “Why?” again. You can use that information to build on or you can share the knowledge and become a leader in your field.  Try asking this question throughout your organization and see where it leads you.

Here are a few examples and some follow-up questions to get the conversation going.

Program Management: Why is your organization launching that new program?

  • Is there a demonstrated need?
  • Is there a gap in services?
  • Has the program proven to be successful elsewhere?
  • Have you considered partnering with other community organizations?

Fundraising: Why are you going after certain donors?

  • Does your prospective donor have the wealth/capacity to give?
  • Have they shown an interest in your cause or something similar?
  • Do you have a connection to them?

Board Members: Why is/isn’t your board giving?

  • Have they been engaged in a way that is meaningful to them as individuals?
  • Are they well-educated about the organizations programs and impact?
  • Are they trained to fund raise on your behalf?
  • Do they have everything they need to do their job successfully?

Organizational Leadership: Why is/isn’t your team more engaged/productive?

  • Have you set clear goals and expectations for both teams and individuals?
  • Are you challenging your team?
  • Are you showing your team appreciation?
  • Are you giving team members the opportunity to use their skills to make a meaningful contribution?
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