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Red Team Your Development Program

Darin Paine, PhD, presented at the Petrus Fundraising Virtual Summit 2020

We are continuing to move forward through the uncertainty surrounding us. And as we do, we can be encouraged by our community that continues to learn from, support and lean on one another.


The following is an addendum to Day 3 (March 19th) of the COVID-19 & Fundraising Virtual Summit session. 


"When a plan is in place we often focus on what it will accomplish.  However, we may miss critical considerations or get derailed by unexpected variables.  But, what if considering the unexpected was part of the plan?  What if the unexpected had already been discussed? 


Red Teaming is a way to question the plan, to identify weaknesses, to give your rogue colleagues a voice - without being a jerk - and incorporate more of your organization.  With historical roots to modern day military training, Red Teaming can help you conquer the competition by challenging everything. 

Based on Bryce G. Hoffman's book, Red Teaming."


Thank you, again, for allowing me to present Red Teaming!  I shared a lot of information in a short amount of time, hopefully you took some time to process the topic.  Now comes the fun part…do some consideration and research Red Team methods on your own. Think about what might work best for you and your organization. Work with leadership, or if you are the leadership, work with your colleagues to put together a Red Team.  If you’re a small group, it may be most of you.  The important thing is after you have a plan – you Red Team that plan before implementing. 


Don’t be afraid to ask hard questions.  Don’t be afraid to challenge assumptions.  Don’t let groupthink cloud your judgement.  The goal is make your plan better, consider those unexpected variables because there are always unexpected variables.  Red Teaming should better prepare you to handle the curveball that life will ultimately throw at you.


Perhaps you’re thinking, how are we going to raise money in this climate?  Consider a problem restatement.  We ARE going to plan and implement a successful fundraising campaign.  Or, break it down to your smaller, short term goals and try to look at the problem a different way.  This is a great time to avoid the “we have always done it this” method.  Red Teaming, and successful organizations like Google and Amazon, stress the importance of avoiding stagnation.  Think different.  Innovate. 


Given the current climate, you may not have time to Red Team since the ‘enemy is inside the wire.’  That’s okay, address your immediate needs without Red Teaming.  However, as you and your organization recover, that is an opportunity to implement Red Teaming.  Peers may have a great idea they have been waiting to try and implement – now is the time to listen to and consider new ideas.


Listen to your donors, and it may be very subtle but they will tell you where they stand.  Additionally, they may have great ideas for you.  Communicate regularly, internally and externally. Keep in mind the mistake Coca Cola made, it wasn’t that Pepsi tasted better that mattered – Coke Classic meant way more to people than just how it tasted.  Again, it’s important to be aware that your own bias may be misleading you.  If you want to have some fun, research the biases we are all guilty of doing.  Some of it is eye-opening, some if it is shocking and some of it down right hilarious. 


Take a deep breath, take some time to consider how you want to move forward.  Keep fighting the good fight.  Hopefully some of the information proves helpful to you.  I encourage you to read the book if you want to dig deeper into the subject.  It is a fascinating read.  If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to ask. 

Thanks again!

Darin Paine, PhD

[email protected]


If you missed it live, don't worry, you can watch the complete video here.

Let us know how you are going to Red Team your program at [email protected].


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