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Doing the right thing

We usually try to make our blog entries more like chapters in a “How to Succeed as Non-Profit” or essays from a “How to Build your Non-Profit.” Today, I decided to make it more informal; I wanted to share with you a recent experience and a poignant reminder–for me anyway-that doing the right thing matters.

In early September, the State issued a Request for Proposal for creating a new quality system for one of the departments. (From reading our blog, you may be able to tell that quality of life-improving the lives of people supported by the health and human services industry-is a driving passion of mine.) The purpose of the RFP called to me, except of course that it seemed to have been written for a specific vendor… that was not us! You may have experienced similar disappointment – there is a call for proposals, a program, or a grant opportunity that you would like to be a part of, but the BIG GUY nearly always has the edge.

I hemmed and hawed over responding to the RFP, going through a roller coaster of emotions and decisions: Do you, as the director of a small agency, provide instruction to your team to respond to a RFP, call for proposal or similar – authorizing the use of many man hours and a thousand dollars of direct related costs for a long shot?

I decided No. Then I decided Yes. Then I decided No. In the month between the issuance and due date, I talked to people, participated in an informational call and continued to gather information – changing my mind half a dozen of times and landing on the choice not to submit. And I actually stayed with that decision for two weeks! However, this past Friday, just two business days before the proposal was due, I received additional encouragement both from outside supporters, as well as my own team, and decided to go for it.

Luckily, I have a great team (and a very supportive husband and children) that gave up their weekend and all of Monday to give me the time to make it happen. Between the decision on Friday evening and sending the packet out by the last possible UPS time for next day delivery, we collectively spent 71 hours in three days writing, coordinating, emailing colleagues, gathering our team, as well as the thousand dollars invested in copies, binders, tabs, and shipping. Monday at 5:30pm, nine copies of a 55 page proposal with 300 pages of samples and attachments was handed over to UPS.

Was it the right decision? We invested 71 hours and a thousand dollars, not to mention the emotion, adrenaline and an upcoming chiropractic bill that may not have been needed without the stress of the deadline, on a long shot – a long, long shot. However, as a very dedicated and supportive consumer advocate reminded us-“You’ve got to give it a try!”

I won’t be surprised if we are not awarded the contract, but at least in submitting it, we gave the state a choice. And there are other positives outcomes that, whether we are awarded the contract or not, we have won. We created a resume for an individual with developmental disabilities who never had one and opened a new door for consulting for her. We made contacts and crossed paths with experts and other like-minded professionals we had not worked with, some of whom we had never met. Perhaps our biggest award from the experience – we stayed true to ourselves, our beliefs and our passions – we united and helped further a collective dream. Those are wins that, underdog or not, long shot or slim chance, can’t be taken away.

Was it the right decision? What is it the “right” thing to do? I believe it was. We gave others and the state something to think about and we stayed true to ourselves – win or not, we did the right thing and it feels good. (Not that being awarded the contract wouldn’t make us feel better… I am still cautiously optimistic that we can win.)

Posted in Business Development, Quality Improvement, Voice of Client.

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