As of 2:30 PM this past Tuesday, my wife and I are the proud owners of a second home. More accurately, we are the new landlords of a townhouse that will be occupied by our daughter and two of her friends while they are in college.
In the last 45 days, we have endured a whirlwind of providing information to lenders, so they could “review” our credit and financial health in order to give a bank the assurance that we are a good credit risk for a mortgage. We had lawyers “evaluating” the title to the property to make sure the chain of ownership was clear and there were no outstanding liens against it that might lead to future claims. We had “appraisers” comparing our property to other homes in the area to affirm the value of our home is in line with the purchase price. Finally, we had home “inspectors” eyeballing every inch of the house looking for construction errors, equipment defects or malfunctions, and cosmetic flaws that needed to be addressed so that the home was in the condition we believe it should be.
For buyers, all of this can feel a bit intrusive as we invite outsiders to evaluate our financial condition and hope that our due diligence comes back telling us we are making a smart investment. I expect it is equally exasperating for the builder or seller who has put so much effort into the construction or upkeep of the property to have inspectors critique their home and the quality of the craftsmanship they are selling.
In spite of the time commitment, inconveniences, delays, additional expense, and anxiety surrounding this process, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
My wife and I want to be sure we are making a smart investment, maximizing our return while limiting the inherent risks of real estate investing. Yes, I know enough about my own personal finances, and can look generally at an investment opportunity like a new house and come to a decision on whether I think it’s a worthwhile and affordable decision. But having the support and expertise of objective professionals helping in the decision-making process gives me a greater sense that all will be well and that in the end we are getting a safe, well-built, and properly functioning property.
In recent months I have heard some of my nonprofit colleagues balk at the idea of an organizational “assessment.” It makes them uncomfortable. Some are unsettled by the thought of having outsiders come in and evaluate the quality of their programs, services, finances, operations and community impact. Some do not see the value of seeking the opinions and ideas of external stakeholders regarding their impressions of readiness for a major fundraising campaign or the community value in launching a new strategic initiative, believing instead that as organizational leaders they know what’s best and can plan effectively based on their own opinions and perceptions. While this may be true and effective in some instances, I would caution any nonprofit leader that making major organizational decisions in a vacuum, without objective analysis is dangerous. And to move forward with mission-critical programs or campaigns without seeking candid input or perspective from community partners and leaders, volunteers, clients or major donors and investors does nothing to help build the confidence, buy-in and ultimately the financial investments your organization needs to succeed.
Assessment. Review. Inspection. Appraisal. Checkup. Evaluation. Analysis. Call it what you want, but don’t let the fear of opening your organization up to outside scrutiny keep you from the all-important task of building confidence in those who depend on you, and among those you depend on for support.