The V-formation — a Lesson in Life

geese in a V-formation
January 19, 2018

Do you ever wonder why geese fly in a V-formation? It is a pretty neat reason — it has been proven that by doing so, they are 70% more efficient than if they were to fly in a straight line across. There’s the physics behind coefficient of drag and all that scientific mumbo jumbo, but why am I writing about this? Most of my experiences with geese have been rather unpleasant, focused around the 18th hole at one of my favorite golf courses…

When the leader gets tired of sticking their neck out into the wind with nobody else to soften the blow, the leader moves back in the formation and another goose assumes the lead, letting the former leader take a well-deserved rest and replenishing their strength.

So how does this apply to fundraising, you may ask?

Firstly, a V-formation assumes that everybody is traveling in the same direction. How many people work at cross-purposes in our fundraising department? Sometimes the finance department is incongruent with the needs of a donor, or the program delivery folks have a disconnect with the donors’ intentions. It’s a much more efficient way of raising money if everyone is flying in the same direction.

Secondly, the notion of different people assuming the mantle of a leader is important. Think of term limits. Most healthy organizations have adopted term limits for their directors because realize that after a while, board members become stagnate and you may not be moving with the times. Term limits force change. And, who doesn’t need a break every now and then anyway?

The same notion can be said for fundraising staff. I contend that unless someone’s job has changed significantly (in roles/responsibility), a 10-year term would suffice. How many organizations can you point to where the leader has been in the post for 20-plus years and you still refer to that leader as a ‘pacesetter’ or ‘trendsetter’. I cannot think of a single one. (Maybe I hang with the wrong type of people, but I doubt it.)

There are lessons that we can internalize all around us — we just have to look for those hidden gems.