“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead
Each year my partners and I decide on a few nonprofit organizations (NPOs) to work with. We are drawn to working with helping organizations because in them we see opportunities to put our energies where our core values lie. These liaisons allow us to support and make a positive difference in the lives of those who so directly help others. Also, the passion and untiring work ethic inherent in so many individuals wholive, eat and breathetheir causes reminds us of how success is so oftennotin theseeking, but in theseeing. That said, there are many practical issues facing nonprofits that are worthy of discussion. One in particular that has troubled some of the nonprofits we have worked with recently is the trend toward bringing on outside fundraising specialists without including in the process a comprehensive plan to develop consensus and build capacity amongstallmembers of the organization.
Primary Non-Profit Issues
We have worked with numerous nonprofits over the years so we have seen first-hand the wealth of talented and hard-working volunteers giving unselfishly of themselves usually with the same level of commitment, skills and expertise as paid staff. The energy of these volunteers seems boundless, yet we all know it is not. Keeping nonprofit organizations financially viable not to mention well-staffed, so that all the tasks are handled efficiently, can be very challenging. As hard-working and dedicated as members of these non-profit organizations are, it is clear that making the world a better place is not just a matter having one highly motivated or famous leader at the helm and everything else falls in line. Often nonprofits have to look outside their ranks to find specialists in the field of organizational development and fund-raising to supplement what they can’t do alone. When we consider the issues faced by nonprofits:
- Management of Assets
- Public Relations, etc.
We understand their need to reach out, but we recommend that certain considerations be in place as well.
Giving Power to the People
If nonprofits bring in outsiders to do their fund-raising, those outside individuals may by default become separated from those who are in-house staff. Fund raisers may be separated from those doing the altruistic work of the organization. With this adjunct or outsider status comes a division that may become problematic for an organization and here’s why: Without carefully scaffolding understanding between each member of the organizational team, without building on each other’s strengths, as well as having frank conversations about the importance of interdependence and understanding each other’s needs, misunderstandings will probably occur.
If our people distance themselves from each other, the risk is they will see each other as commodities rather than associates, partners or colleagues. However, when each contributing partner makes personal meaning of his/her own, as well as others’ roles and sees how these roles are interdependent, then a sense of community is strengthened and there is heightened value put on all. No one aspect of the organization is better or worse, more valuable or less. If those who do fund-raising are separated from other members of the organization (because they are outsiders in some form) or if somehow their work is valued differently (either held in higher esteem or minimalized because they don’t do the hands-on helping) this can tend tostaff splitan organization in very short order.
The Harsh Realities
The reality is that for some altruistic individuals, dealing with money may bring with it some underlying beliefs of scarcity or lack and these beliefs may undermine the successful efforts of the organization. If a person believes that money is at the root of all things bad, then despite that person’s best efforts toward the contrary, he or she is going to have at least mixed feelings toward those who raise money. Nonprofits need to build bridges between their workers, not unintentionally let divisions occur. Being aware of this potential is worthy of some time and actions. Finally, a belief that there is never enough can lead to lowered motivation, feelings of hopelessness, resentments and potential burnout. A belief that we are all contributing and succeeding at making the world a better place can inspire, enlighten and potentially open up innovative dialogues. Given the right structures and facilitation, each individual, group or entity within an organization has something to teach the other and herein lays the gift they can share to grow the organization and themselves. Yes. Hire specialists, but also make sure you have the communication processes and trust necessary for all to make meaning of their value, agree on their mutual vision, and support interdependence.
Getting Outside Help
“Help thy brother’s boat across and lo! thine own has reached the shore.” — Hindu Proverb
When individuals can see how bringing in an outsider can add value and build capacity, this will help grow an organization. Without these explicit connections, without these structured communication events and consensus-building activities, bringing on any new plan or any outside expert may have less than desirable results.
Keys to Success
“We should acknowledge differences, we should greet differences, until difference makes no difference anymore.” — Dr. Adela A. Allen
In our experience, the only real obstacles between a non-profit organization and its goals are limited communication, limited trust, and the mindset of lack.
Without fail, when all the members of an organization—in-house people, as well as those who are outside specialists—have been brought together for structured, well-facilitated communication events, their ability to generate a wealth of resources, energy, ideas, and innovations has been beyond compare.
Value your people for their contributions and facilitate those honest conversations your organization needs to have. Through those processes, you will discover that the keys to success lie within all your people.
“Life is a gift, and it offers us the privilege, opportunity, and responsibility to give something back by becoming more.” – Anthony Robbins