How do we stop using excuses as a conversation starter, or icebreaker when starting a meeting? We all know people who start conversations by making excuses for why they are late, unprepared, and haven’t completed what they committed to do. First comes the excuse; then comes a focus on the content of the excuse. A meeting to review fundraising progress can turn into a discussion of traffic, construction, family illnesses, the weather, and before you know it 15 minutes have passed.

Excuses send the wrong message to people who are serious about meeting. They have come prepared and are ready to work. These could be staff, board members or volunteers. One thing is certain: they didn’t show up for excuses.  The fact that your organization is a nonprofit doesn’t mean that excuses should be tolerated. Excuses cannot be a part of our culture. We have to rethink how we communicate.

Here’s why: excuses turn people off. When you invite someone to work with you on your fundraising, they are giving their valuable time. They assume you are serious about fundraising and want to get things done. You will run people off is you spend 10 minutes trying to remember what people committed to at the last meeting, and another 10 minutes discussing why those things didn’t get done.

We are telling you the truth. Organizations large and small are always seeking talented people to join their fundraising campaigns. What many don’t know is that disorganization and excuses can keep all but the most dedicated of people away from the table. They don’t have the time to waste.

These words may sound harsh, but they are the truth that is not told. If you want to grow from one level of fundraising to another look at how you conduct meetings, how you hold each other accountable, and the extent to which excuses dominate the meeting.

What do we mean by accountability? Doing what you say you’re going to do, and doing it by the time you committed. Oh, did we mention doing a good job?

If you lead with excuses you can stop. Set realistic timeframes. Make commitments you can keep. Get support for developing better time management skills. Whatever it takes, stop leading with excuses. Make your word your bond.

If your team members lead with excuses, check in with them in advance to see if they need assistance and are progressing in a timely manner.

As a manager and leader of volunteers you have to be focused, upbeat and set a positive tone. Be a motivator. Be creative. Have a plan B and a plan C. Be prepared: show the people you are working with that you value their time. Your leadership should be infectious and elevate your volunteers to the highest level.

Copyright 2015– Mel and Pearl Shaw

Mel and Pearl Shaw position nonprofits, colleges and universities for fundraising success. For help with your fundraising visit or call (901) 522-8727.