Wednesday, July 20, 2011

If It Seems Too Good To Be True ….

… then it probably is.

So goes the old adage.

However, I think many times we let this piece of wisdom influence us in ways that kill opportunities that otherwise could have created tremendous possibilities.

Some months back, I happened to be in a series of meetings with a well known organization that was pursuing capital to fund their various programs.

At the same time, some philanthropists in my network were looking for some fresh new projects to invest in and had asked me and others to keep an eye out for projects that we felt would resonate with their sense of community.

With that in mind, I extended an offer to the organization that I was meeting with that people in my network would welcome being solicited for significant donations.  The offer was to connect them directly with the people in my network, I would step back and they would see what they could create.  There was nothing in it for me outside of the feeling that I had done a good deed for a great organization and community-minded philanthropists.

My offer was politely declined.

In subsequent meetings where people lamented the lack of capital, I again mentioned that there were people in my network interested in contributing to their various campaigns and again the offer was declined.

I later mentioned this to other senior members of the organization in a recap of our meetings and they nodded but also didn’t choose to take action.

The third time is usually a charm – in this case it wasn’t and the philanthropists eventually found other outlets for their desire to invest in community.

I’ve been really curious about this since the event occurred, as I had not seen philanthropic offers turned down in the past.  Did the funding needs of the organization in question change?  It didn’t seem so.  Was there an issue with the philanthropists in any way that the organization decided was problematic.  Apparently not - they never reached out to them at all so they wouldn’t know if there was an issue or not.

While I was contemplating this, there were two interesting theories that were put before me by people observing the interaction.

1. That specific individuals wanted donors that they sourced out, not ones brought in by others.  This would allow them to take the credit.

2. That the offer seemed too good to be true – the notion that philanthropists looking to make significant donations would just happen to be available when the organization needed them sounded like too perfect a coincidence.

The first scenario involves ego and there is little I can do to combat it.

The second scenario seems more likely.  Unfortunately, the offer could easily have been verified with a quick phone call or email.  Five minutes of due diligence could have produced a multi-million dollar, multi-year collaboration.

However, it seemed too good to be true and therefore was rejected outright as being impossible and with that, a collaboration that could have made a profound impact on many people vanished.

The old adage of when it seems to be too good to be true is valid wisdom that can often protect us from a lot of shady opportunities.

However, sometimes when an event actually seems too good to be true, we must be open to the possibility that we may be observing a miracle in the making.

Better yet, we may be participating in one.

The old adage will protect us often. 

There will be times, however, when we must lay the old wisdom aside for a moment.  After all, sometimes all that is needed is a little due diligence that can mean the difference between tremendous disaster and tremendous potential.

We won’t know if we are facing disaster or potential unless we at least entertain that which appears too good to be true.

We should learn to say “yes” more often (with appropriate prudence and due diligence) so that we open ourselves to the possibility of miracles.

Because when we fill our world with “no”, we are guaranteed not to create or participate in any.

In service and servanthood,


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