When I talk to a nonprofit leader for the first time I will often see opportunities for her to make powerful and transformative connections for her nonprofit — to influencers, networks, organizations, trends, advocates, and/or money — which she just doesn’t see.
Let me give you an example.
I was talking to a nonprofit leader the other day who was struggling with the usual list of concerns: a disengaged board, a budget shortfall, an exhausted staff, a limited network of influencers. You know the drill — chances are you’ve been there.
She couldn’t figure out how to get off the hamster wheel of never having enough but desperately wanting to achieve so much more. What she saw looking out the windows of her world was pretty bleak.
But what she neglected to see also were the potential connections that were staring her right in the face. There were organizations, networks, experts, movements, even money — yes money! — sitting on the sidelines waiting for her to connect.
She just didn’t realize it.
But here’s what I saw:
I saw new (for her) funders who could become passionate about her nonprofit’s work, if only she would connect the dots between what she was doing and what they believed in.
I saw members of her board who wanted to be more productive, if only she would seek them out, one-on-one, to uncover where their skills, experience and networks intersected with where she needed help. If only she would help them clearly understand how they could more fully contribute and how fulfilling it would be (for them personally and for the nonprofit’s mission) if they chose to do so.
I saw other nonprofit leaders who were working (either tangentially or directly) on her same set of social issues but didn’t know she existed or had never found an excuse to truly connect. If only she would sit down with those nonprofit leaders to explore whether there were opportunities to share the social change burden. If only they would create ways to be stronger together.
I saw experts working on different social issues, or in different industries, who were employing novel approaches or using new tools that she could learn from, if only she would ask them for counsel, feedback, insight, experience.
I saw demographic, economic and cultural shifts which intersected with her nonprofit’s work and from which that work could benefit if only she would think strategically about ways to connect to those trends.
As humans we sometimes isolate ourselves believing that no one else understands what we are going through, that no one else can relate or help, that we must go it alone.
I get stuck there myself sometimes.
And perhaps this is particularly true in the nonprofit sector where the fierce competition for limited resources often discourages cooperation, collaboration, connection.
But the truth is that we are so much stronger together. And I don’t just mean stronger as human beings, although that is very true. I mean that your nonprofit’s mission — the ultimate change you are trying to create, the unique way in which you are trying to make the world a better place — will be infinitely more successful if you can forge powerful connections.
So instead of continuing to hunker down, digging ourselves deeper into the false safety of our isolation, we must forge new connections. Because it is only in connecting – to fellow social change warriors, to the transformative energy of money, to experts and advocates, influencers and friends – that we are able to do so much more.
And I know that you want to do more. In fact, it is what you were put on this earth to do. So start making those connections that I know are standing right there in front of you.
If you need help seeing, believing in, or making those connections, let me know.
Photo Credit: John Barkiple