Which to ask for? Permission or forgiveness?

18 Sep


Just a brief one this week because the title pretty much says it all.

Is it better to ask for permission or to ask for forgiveness? I’ll share my answer in a moment.

This topic was given to me by a nonprofit director we are working with to use our platform. She actually said that she can’t share working with us because she had not received permission from the powers-that-be to move forward using our platform for mobile engagement and mobile fundraising. In talking to her it was easy to tell that she wants to move her nonprofit forward into the digital age. She sees what all of us see, or at least I hope by now that you see it-the mobile phone is taking over for the PC as THE internet device of choice.

And yet, I worry that this is the case for a lot of nonprofits and their decisions on what to do. I suspect this is at the heart of copying the same thing someone else does and expecting it to work for your nonprofit. Many are doing precisely this with the Ice Bucket Challenge.

And don’t get me wrong. I get it. It comes with the oversight and scrutiny that all nonprofits are subjected to. But as it pertains to products like ours with no contract and no set up fees there is little downside. Using this as a prism I suspect that many contracts that nonprofits could not escape is a factor in the drive to seek permission.

With the digital age upon us and the rapidity of change and advancement hastening asking for permission means decision cycles that are out-of-synch with the digital age.

Experimentation is the rule in the digital age.

So here’s my answer and my explanation.

Ask for forgiveness. Why? Precisely because of the need to experiment and see what works for your nonprofit. I know “experimentation” and “nonprofit” don’t always go hand-in-hand.

My argument wins on this single example. Do you think ALS knew going in that the Ice Bucket Challenge would be what it became? Of course not. They tried it. It worked. And whoever thought of it hopefully got the credit and never had to ask for forgiveness.

Dale Knoop is part of a great team working to make RAZ Mobile a great platform for any cause engaged in fundraising. Any cause can create an content-rich mobile presence, share it through text messages, social media, QR codes, advertising and more and best of all-quickly and securely process donations from motivated supporters. Dale holds multiple patents and applications for patent in the mobile space including advertising, content optimization, geo-targeting and negative QOS.

4 Responses to “Which to ask for? Permission or forgiveness?”

  1. Rick Christ (@FundraisingRick) September 19, 2014 at 7:56 AM #


    Truth. It’s often said that nonprofit executives are risk-averse people… slow adopters. I believe that’s wrong. They have the courage to see the world as it could be, and push the world to adopt their vision. They do, however, sometimes take fewer risks in fundraising than they do on the program side. These are times of rapid change, and not adopting new ideas is risky in itself.

    Maybe it’s our fault. Maybe we (those who want them to adopt new technology) haven’t made a clear test plan available, as in.
    1. How does this help meet objectives?
    2. What’s the upside potential?
    3. What are the risks?
    4. What’s the initial trial period?
    5. What are the initial indicators of success?
    6. If we’ve reached 5 by the end of 4, what’s the next step?

    Then it doesn’t look so daunting. I’m going to try that with a prospective client today!

    Thanks for the inspiration.


    • daleknoop September 19, 2014 at 8:06 AM #

      Thanks Rick. When I launched live TV on cellphones at Sprint in 2003 I was asked to prep detailed plans of how to disable the service in case it “crashed the network” as many on the network side feared. After less than a year we had 300,000 subscribers and everyone above my level at Sprint wanted to claim credit. I felt that the risk was worth finding out what worked and we did.

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