If you’ve lost your way, it’s not too late to come back.
I’m talking about what we see happening in a lot of non-profits these days. It’s where the organization has moved away from the deeper organizing purpose, and it’s become an organization with little heart and diffused focus. Jeff and I write about this in our book It’s Not JUST About the Donor, where our purpose is to help leaders, managers and insiders maintain a grasp on what’s important.
We all lose our way on a lot of things. I can name things in my personal life right now where I’ve lost my way, and I imagine you can too. But the learning, over the years, has been that losing my way isn’t the big deal. It’s staying lost that can be damaging.
And when it comes to organizations, when a non-profit loses its way, and stays lost, it’s really serious stuff.
You see, it always starts out pure. A person or two, sometimes more, see a need. They have a passion for it. Something must be done! So they propose to DO something. At first it may be slightly disorganized and organic. But stuff is getting done. And everyone is pulling together. The non-profit is launched.
And the net of all of this is that the non-profit, in its most basic form, is a group of humans bound together for a common cause. Some of them are involved in governance and leadership. Others are staff. Others are volunteers. Still others are donors. Some are paid and belong to a formal and legal organization. Others are outside of that structure.
But they all have one thing in common – the cause they’ve committed themselves to.
And the entire group is organized into three major categories: those who are on the front-line delivering the solution (Program), those who are providing the resources to make it happen (Donors & Volunteers), and those who are supporting the entire effort (Admin/Ops staff and Volunteers).
The whole thing is about delivering a solution to a need on the planet. And all the people involved are focused on making that happen.
But then things start to go bad.
As time passes, the organization becomes more complex and people tend to forget the basic unifying purpose. They start to believe that what they are doing, separate from everyone else, is the most important thing. Their energy and power focuses solely on themselves. And this isn’t good.
Not only are the other players diminished or modified in their roles, but the core mission – the heart of it – is lost. Ignorance and callousness seeps in. And something that was once beautiful and helpful becomes corrupted.
This ignorance or callousness causes a staff person to lose appreciation for why the organization exists and where money comes from. And all of this results in a brazen lack of sensitivity to donors who are the economic engine of the organization.
We see this happening all the time. And it’s so sad to see.
Stop right now and think about your organization. Is the heartbeat of your non-profit one that is close to the reason for which you were formed? If so, you’re in the minority, and congratulations. (Tweet it!)
If not, take steps to lead and come back. Come back to why you exist. Make it a priority, since being back in the place you started is where you had the greatest alignment of purpose, determination, and heart.