In this economic downturn, how are you responding? How quickly are your funders responding? How about your donors?

In times like this, it’s important to reflect, take stock, and think about what your organization can use more of, and what it can use less of.
I just sat down and read the first chapter of “The Starfish and the Spider.” Talk about an inspiring book! You can read it here, too. This book, written in 2007, is relevant today in thinking about four things.

1. File sharing
2. The war in Iraq and Afghanistan
3. Montezuma, Cortez, the Apaches
4. Grassroots movements in crisis

This book has the basic premise that leaderless organizations will always overcome organizations with a central chain of command.

It cites the example of Napster, which had a central chain of command, and was sued successfully by the music industry, to eMule, which is an open source anonymous software, growing steadily, and the music industry, and even its direct competitor, eDonkey, do not know who runs it.

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are being slowly lost due to the ability of the people fighting our soldiers to be anywhere, and make decisions on the spur of the moment, without a lengthy command process. Where have we seen this played out before?

Remember Montezuma and Cortez? Cortez came to Montezuma, the ruler of the largest empire in North America, located where modern day Mexico City is, with roads, markets, and 15 million people. He took their gold, and then he killed Montezuma, and held the people in the city until they starved, and effectively killed their entire civilization in two years. Montezuma had a centralized chain of command.

By contrast, the Apaches, located in northern Mexico and modern-day New Mexico, successfully fought off the Spaniards for hundreds of years. How did they do it?


They had spiritual leaders, but no centralized command. Geronimo was the Apache’s most famous leader, but they were not dependent on him for their success. When the Spaniards burnt Apache villages, they just became nomads. And the Apaches used the decentralized chain of command to give everyone power to decide where and when to raid, so the Spaniards never knew when or where they would be.

In grassroots movements, nonprofits that allow anyone to help, and which spread authority out over anyone who wants to be involved, allow movements to respond quickly to any situation.

What is the power structure in your organization?

Are you empowered to lead?

Are you forced to follow many procedures and rules, with no authority?

What can you do to gain control of your ability to make decisions?

How can you empower your coworkers, subordinates and volunteers to lead?

How can this increase your bandwidth as a fundraiser?

How can you apply Apache methods to your fundraising shop?

In this economic downturn, what can you do to empower your donors to lead your fundraising efforts? How can you become more wild?