Changing the World Doesn’t Start with Money

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Book: The Abundant Not-for-Profit


When it comes to organizational planning and change leadership efforts, a recent personal experience highlighted the value of the philosophy we put forward in our book The Abundant Not-for-Profit. The book centres on the idea that a clear and compelling mission, and a focus on attracting passionate, skilled people to contribute unique skills, provides access to an abundance of resources and skills to get the job done. As I discovered recently, groups looking to initiate or launch new change leadership efforts by focusing on resources other than people (like money) too soon can actually derail or inhibit the transition from an idea to a start-up!

Late last fall, a small group of people convened to begin making plans for a new political advocacy group. After two meetings there was a great deal of excitement around the table, and lots of great ideas for how to proceed. After the second meeting, the lead organizer indicated that he was going to look for grants and funding to get the effort off the ground as a next step.

Two months went by with no word. We then got a message from the lead organizer that he’d spent all his time looking for grants, to no avail, and so wanted to reconvene the group to strategize. Unfortunately, at that point, too much of the initial momentum and excitement was lost. Some members of the original core group of people dropped off. The idea sputtered out before it even got off the ground.

Despite the fact that there was a group of people willing to put time and effort into the new group, and with many ideas for strategies that required no money, an important cause failed to move forward because the focus was on money first, not on engagement.

For a group in the idea stage, such as the one described above, it would have been more valuable for the original group of supporters to share their thoughts on why the initiative was important. A great question to ask is:what would this idea make possible?. It can also be incredibly powerful for each contributor to share stories of why the new idea compels them, and what skills and talents each participant can provide to develop the initiative further.

A central message to remember is that important change leadership efforts in every sector happen because of people. Whether you are in an idea stage or an established organization serving its community, it is important to be mindful of how your organization is engaging passionate people to your cause. 


About the Author

Mark Friesen is the Director of Capacity Development at Vantage Point, where he assists not-for-profit organizations throughout BC with strategic planning, governance, and capacity building. Mark excels at assessing governance structures and finding democratic solutions to organizational challenges...


Lynda Gerty's picture
Lynda Gerty (not verified) on
Thank you for this story, Mark! It's a powerful example of how a focus on money can unintentionally undermine community leadership. I appreciate you being willing to share your experience of "failure", so others can learn. Onwards...!

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