Not for Profit - why do we talk about money so much

I'm concerned with an aspect of IEEE that has multiple negative impact IMHO -- our emphasis on money. When I see evaluations of our success, it is often measured in dollars -- growth in revenue, competitors evaluated in dollar market share, etc. Since you tend to get what you measure, it puts much of the focus of the leadership on money.
Note that not-for-profits cannot survive if the income does not match or exceed the expenditures. IEEE is not running on some large endowment, so it must find revenue to cover the necessary expenses, and at times eliminate expenses (projects, products, services even staffing) when this is not happening. However, expecting many if not all products, services or even operating units to generate surpluses is not consistent with the not-for-profit objective which means funding activities of benefit to the public and profession that might not be surplus generating. In effect. we must subsidize some activities from surpluses drawn in from other activities.
Here is the flip side of this problem - IEEE groups are hesitant to be the source of that subsidy (I have yet to find one that would refuse a subsidy.) Every conference wants to run right to the wire ... and reinvest any surplus in either low fees, student travel fellowships, scholarships, etc. These may be good things, but most are driven from a myopia about the nature of IEEE, seeking to maximize the benefit for their community and not give back to the rest of IEEE. Needless to say this does not provide support for the next emerging conference, or publication, or whatever. Some of the same myopic perspective exists with sections or chapters -- it is less with publications where the centralized nature of publishing has tended to drive a more business oriented line of thinking.
The same conflict exists between societies, where again surplus is a key metric. Societies do not want to be the source of surplus that subsidizes other societies (including emerging technology, high growth areas or areas of social responsibility). So annual budget review and the periodic "society reviews" put the pressure on surplus generation. All of this in a context where IEEE's overall surpluses are growing dramatically (thanks to the stock market).
Here's the real rub: I strongly suspect Dan Pink in his discussion on motivation (Book: Drive, see the related video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u6XAPnuFjJc ) is correct ... money is a negative motivator, decreasing productivity once things rise above Maslow's "physical and security" levels. The real motivators are autonomy (self actualization), mastery (self esteem and the esteem of others) and purpose (which underlies all of these.) IEEE is filled with purpose, provides the essential community (belonging in Maslow's hierarchy) and great opportunities for mastery and autonomy --- but we let money get in our way.

1 comment:

  1. I agree with you, Jim. This year I am running Membership Development efforts in Argentina Section. When outlining our M.D. Plan, I found this "money-oriented tradition" works against our pretended goals.

    I will mention your article on our February ExCom meeting.

    Thank you and best wishes.