How to Deal with Crazy Ideas from Your Favorite Supporters

You love your supporter, but sometimes they come up with impossible, even dangerous ideas. Here are some tips on how to work with the challenge of bizarre ideas and to transform them into help for your nonprofit.

This is the transcript from a video that has been archived.

Hi, I’m Karen Eber Davis. Let’s talk about dealing with those crazy bizarre ideas that come from your members and supporters. I’m talking about the ones that you deeply know would never work. Not the ones that have potential.


So here are three tips.


The first thing to do is to buy yourself some time. So you can say something like, “Let me think about that. I’ve never thought about that before.” Give yourself some time.


The second thing to do is create an idea review panel, for instance, of staff and board members and others. In this case, you say, “Listen, thank you for this idea. When we have ideas like this, we collect them, and then once a month –whatever makes sense –we meet and discuss them and talk about which ones meet our criteria, and we review them. So if it’s okay with you, I will take your idea and share it with the group.” Probably they’ll like that. If they feel like they’ve been heard, people are satisfied, even though their ideas aren’t accepted as the way to go forward. They’ve been heard, so they’re good.


The third thing to do, and I credit Barbara St. Clair with Creative Pinellas with this, is to look beyond the idea to what the problem or challenge that that idea is trying to solve. I love this idea because the more you think about it, the solution is just something they’ve come out of their head. They’ve been working on one of your challenges. They see a challenge, a need, or a problem. So dig into the current conversation and ask, “What are you trying to do here? Why is this important? Then you can say, “Oh, you’re showing us a problem we’re working on or one we’re not recognized. Thank you.” Then solve the problem and develop a better solution.


So that’s three ways to deal with crazy, bizarre, unusual, no-good ideas that come from supporters you want to support to bring you more ideas because the next ones might be fabulous.


I’m Karen Eber Davis, and there’s more on my website about how to work with supporters and board member challenges.


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Karen Eber Davis

Before founding her firm, Karen Eber Davis developed the Sarasota County Community Development Block Grant Program. Under her leadership, this infant program received the National Association of Counties National Affordable Housing Award for the Down Payment Assistance Program. To date, the program helped over 1,800 families realize their dreams of homeownership. She also worked with the City of Ft. Lauderdale and the Florida Department of State, Division of Cultural Affairs, where she developed the division’s first audit program. In an earlier position at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Tampa, she organized senior, youth, and children groups plus family activities. Her youth staffing work with the Florida Synod of the Lutheran Church in America supported youth ministries in 120 congregations in Florida.