Organizational Dynamics


The language of marketing is the language of hunting. Who are we aiming for? What segment are we trying to capture? Who are we setting our sights on? What’s our target audience?

The language itself implicitly sets up a power dynamic, and it’s easy to fall into a mindset of manipulation. In this mindset, the market exists to be taken advantage of, fleeced, used for the good of the organization.

Taken on a more healthy level, the question of market is really the question of relationship. Who are we relating to? Who are we in conversation with? Ideally, the relationship should be one of full information and consent – not manipulation.

Here are a few questions to ask if you’re working to identify your market. Use the ones that make the most sense to your situation.

  • Need – who has the greatest need for what we have to offer?
  • Demand – who is ready, willing, and able to enter this relationship with us?
  • Impact – where can we have the greatest impact? Where can we do the most good?
  • Passion – What interests us?

I’m currently working with a client on the question of market. Before facing the question, we had to do a good amount of work on clarifying the mission of the organization – you need some sense of who you are before you can come into a relationship. Even with that initial sense of mission, tackling the question of market is making them rethink who they are. Relationship can do that to a person.

I just spoke with a friend about the mission and structure of an organization he’s setting up. He floated a few ideas past me. On some of them, his eyes lit up and he almost jumped out of his seat. On others, he slumped in his seat, and looked as if he would much rather be somewhere else. Why would he even bother considering the latter? All sorts of external pressure – what he thinks the funders want, pressures from the other people mixed in to the organization, a nagging sense of what’s supposed to be done. All sorts of nonsense.

It’s going to take a whole lot of energy to make an organization work. Without excitement about what you’re doing, you’re dead in the water. When you’re planning out a business, excitement is the compass. When you’re running it, excitement is the gas. Maybe some people get excited about the money; I supposed such things are possible (if a bit twisted.) The best workers in any job are the ones who are excited about the job. Certainly, the leaders of a non-profit better be all sorts of excited about the mission and about the organization.

Other factors come in, for sure – you need to build an organization that can succeed, you need to keep up a good relationship with your funders, you need to build a team that can work well together. None of these things should be done in a way that squelches the excitement that the leaders of the organization have. If you allow that to happen, you’re hobbling the horse before it leaves the gate.