We Want to be Soaring. What About You?

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Somewhere in my meanderings through the internet today, I came across an incredibly thought provoking post by Sidney Hargro on the future of the not-for-profit sector and how we should react to the recession in positive ways. Hargro poses three critical questions we as a sector should be contemplating:

  1. What services and systems are most crucial to the long-term health of our community and therefore should be lifted up for community support and held harmless to the best of our ability?
  2. How can we streamline, restructure, and prepare these services and systems (with no sacred cow operations) for a stronger more effective existence on the other side of the recession?
  3. How do we address the loss of talented nonprofit staff that may leave our community?

Admittedly, these are the kind of huge questions that get asked and cause me to silently pray that someone other than me has to figure it out. I know that's a terrible personal cop-out, but I get overwhelmed with the idea of fixing the big issues of modern day life. Truly, it's just not my thing. I saw Bill Clinton speak once and someone asked him how he thought we could eliminate smoking. Geez - and I thought I fielded some tough questions from workshop audiences! I'm in the weeds more than in the clouds, for good or ill. I will say that I highly recommend reading Hargro's blog. And if you can solve any of these super sized problems, please let me know!

Something else on the blog got me going, too (as is so often the case on my tangled winding through the internet's ridiculous amount of information). The first comment on the blog was from Hildy Gottlieb, the author of The Pollyanna Principles, which was ironically recommended to me two days ago. It felt fortuitous. And Hildy's question was this:

What do we want to be poised to do when the recession is over, and what do we need to do now to ensure that becomes our reality?

Now I know that Gottlieb, like Hargro, is operating at the cloud level and meant this at the meta, sector level. But as per usual, my thoughts started small before going big - and started with me as an individual. I think about the new trendiness of frugality. Will we change the way we spend money, over value consumer goods and frolic through life singing fa la-la la-la for the long term or just today?

Then I move to other individuals. Will the current state of affairs make more people aware that many of us always have too too much and even more have too too little - all the time, not just now? Will Wall Street bonuses forever be reduced due to public outrage, or just for this fiscal year of emergency? Does anyone actually deserve a $3,000,000 bonus, EVER?!

And if that's the individual lifestyle reaction - what does it mean for not-for-profit organizations? Oddly, I think it should be the same thing. So rather than lamenting that "we have less money right now" (the short-term deficit position), why aren't we excited about "changing the way we operate for the better" (the long-term abundance position)? In response to financial deficits, organizations need to be leaner and stronger (and PLEASE don't think I'm saying to less money spent on overhead! Absolutely not!!). We need to identify what we're doing that actually works and do more of it more efficiently. My guess is that a pure focus on that would change the way a lot of us operate. And I don't think that's something we should just be doing today, but for all the tomorrows.

And so, in response to Gottlieb's question, I want my organization to say "when the recession is over we want to be doing exactly what we're doing now - which is making a measured impact on our community in the most effective and efficient ways possible. We want to be soaring to new heights." Why would any organization want anything else?

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Anonymous's picture
Anonymous (not verified) on
"We need to identify what we're doing that actually works and do more of it more efficiently." In addition to what actually works, what is no one else doing that needs doing, that your org can do well, can attract funding, and is connected to your mission? The Macmilan matrix (adapted to nonprofits) looks at: 1) Fit with mission AND abilities 2) Program attractiveness (ie. can you get it funded?) 3) Coverage (are other people already doing it and doing it well?) Great aspects to examine when determining which programs your organization should really be focusing on (similar to Jim Collin's hedgehog concept in Good to Great). Find a version of the matrix here: http://www.icl.org/toolkits/hard-times/tools/macmillan-matrix.pdf Trina | http://trinaisakson.wordpress.com

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