Sunday, June 10, 2012

Consultant secretly hopes charity’s problems continue so he can pay for new car

Fundraising consultant Hugh Smiley is hoping that Metro’s largest charity continues to be plagued by bad management decisions so he can pay for a new car.

Smiley was brought in as an outside governance consultant to review  the operation of the Big Honking Cancer Foundation. Smiley’s New York City firm was hired after the Foundation’s board called for greater cost-effectiveness and more management accountability in the wake of a downturn in fundraising revenues. Smiley was chosen primarily because of his perfect hair and smile and ability to say just the right things to the right people.

“When I came here, everything was in disarray. The CEO wasn’t talking to the board chair and the managers weren’t sharing with the staff. They needed my help to become more efficient and have stronger lines of communication,” recalled Smiley.

“I actually figured out what was wrong 15 minutes after talking to their CEO. And it took me just an afternoon of interviews to decide what they should do. But I didn’t tell them right away,” said Smiley. “The lease on my Lexus is up and I wanted some cash flow to buy an upgraded model. So I kept things going a bit.”

Smiley told the Foundation that their problem was more serious than he first thought and launched a new series of interviews with board members, donors and rank-and-file staff members. The process added two weeks of time to the project.

“You wouldn’t believe how boring those interviews were. I tried taking notes, but I soon realized that everyone was saying the same thing. So, I just did sketches of my new Lexus instead. I think I want a silver one.”

After a month on the job, Smiley handed down his report and presented it to the CEO and board. He says writing the report was very challenging.

“The first draft was only two pages. That’s all they really needed. But I couldn’t just give them two pages, so I had to add about 30 pages of BS,” he recalled. “Then I thought, you know, I shouldn’t actually tell them about some of the things I found. I mean, if they just fixed those, they would never call me again. If I left a few lit fuses burning then I might actually wind up getting a convertible.”

The report had exactly the right impact. The charity moved quickly to fix a number of policy and management issues, but left a few key challenges unaddressed.

“I had a moment there when the CEO asked me during my presentation about the two or three things I had left dangling. I thought, geez, there goes my convertible.” he said. “But I just flashed my smile and told her I had every confidence that they’d be able to handle those issues themselves. They actually believed me, too.”

Smiley predicts the charity will suffer a major breakdown in a few weeks, forcing them to recall him for more consultation.

“That’s just perfect timing for the Lexus. And if I play my cards right I may also get enough to take a cruise trip as well. Man, life is sweet.”