Wednesday, June 23, 2010

What is Your Passion? Why Do You Do the Work You Do?

Before my grandmother died, she told me that the time that she felt most alive in her life was during the Civil Rights Movement.  I was surprised by this statement.  After all, she had four amazing daughters and five amazing grandchildren in her lifetime (including me!).  Yet, it was helping to end American Apartheid that moved her to the core.  That ignited her passion.

My grandmother was an amazing woman but her longings and desire to connect to something bigger than herself are quite ordinary. 

According to Jim Collins in The Five Most Important Questions You Will Ever Ask About Your Organization, once we satisfy our need for food, clothing and shelter, one of the deepest desires we have as human beings is to be connected to something larger.
"No matter how much the world changes, people still have a fundamental need for guiding values and sense of purpose that give their life and work meaning.  They have a fundamental need for connection to other people, sharing with them the common bond of beliefs and aspirations.  They have a desperate need for a guiding philosophy, a beacon on the hill to keep in sight during dark and disruptive times.  More than any time in the past, people...demand that the organizations of which they are a part stand for something."
Look around and you will see this desire expressed in many ways.  Some people attend churches or mosques or temples.  Others take drugs.  All you have to do is witness our cultural obsession with American Idol to understand our collective longing to "touch the stars" and experience largess.

As nonprofit leaders and movement builders we have an amazing privilege and opportunity to help people connect to this powerful, yet basic human desire.  We can be that vehicle for our volunteers, donors, employees, board members and clients to connect to greatness.  We can help them "make history."

The problem is we can't do this if we spend all of our time focused on the minutiae of running our organizations.  While budgets must be managed, programs must be evaluated, and people must be hired and fired, we must also set aside time for the organization and it's constituents to DREAM.

I'm doing a workshop in a few weeks on this topic and I can't wait because helping people to THINK BIG is one of my favorite things to do.  If you too need help remembering or (re)envisioning WHY you do the work you do, use the questions below to spark a conversation with your team.

Do it now.  Push yourself to move beyond the daily drudgery of work and reconnect with your mission.

The world is full of deeply complex problems that won't be solved by management alone.  We need to become more than pencil pushers.  We ALL need to become visionaries and transformational leaders who find and ignite our own passion and then inspire others to greatness.

Live Big.
  • What do you want to be remembered for?
  • If you left your job/organization today, what would be your best memory?
  • What is your biggest organizational accomplishment to date and why?
  • Who and what organizations do you most admire most and why?
  • When you think about the work that you do, what gets your juices flowing?  What ignites your passion?
  • If you left your job/organization today, what would you miss most?

Friday, June 11, 2010

Register Today for a FREE Webinar with Beth Kanter!

“Enough about you. Let’s talk about ME!”

Is this how you interact with your supporters? Telling them about the intricacies of your organizational work and priorities —instead of listening and responding to the ideas bubbling up from their communities?

In The Networked Nonprofit: Connecting With Social Media To Drive Change, co-authors Beth Kanter and Allison Fine, show how social media is catalyzing a shift away from this type of “organization-centric” advocacy, governance and communications toward a “network-centric” approach.

In a recent interview with the authors in Huffington Post, Kanter and Fine also talk about how the future success of nonprofits will rely on their ability to build movements instead of organizations.

* Five lucky registrants will win free copies of the book!

What you’ll learn:
  • How to understand social networks through social network analysis;
  • How to create a social culture at your nonprofit;
  • How and why you must value relationships as well as transactions;
  • How to embrace experimentation, and work with crowds; and
  • How to break out of those troublesome silos.

Beth Kanter is Chief Executive Officer of Zoetica. Beth is also the author of Beth’s Blog: How Nonprofits Can Use Social Media, one of the longest running and most popular blogs for nonprofits. Beth has over 30 years working in the nonprofit sector.

Allison Fine
is a writer and activist dedicated to understanding and enhancing efforts to use new, social media tools for social change.  She has written several books and papers. Momentum: Igniting Social Change in the Connected Age, the winner of the Terry McAdams National Book Award, was published in 2006 by Wiley and Sons. The Case Foundation commissioned her to write a paper on young people, Millennials, and activism called Social Citizens, and she co-edited a collection of essays, Rebooting America, of transformative ways to reinvent 21st century democracy using new media tools.

Marc Sirkin is Autism Speaks's chief community officer and is focused on helping the organization create “conversations” using the Internet and the Social Web. He oversees the organization's digital strategy and is focused on creating new community and fundraising opportunities for all those affected by autism.

Danielle Brigida works as the Social Media Outreach Coordinator for the National Wildlife Federation. She actively engages a wide range of constituents using a mixture of online tools and social networking sites. An early adopter of social media with creative, engaging campaigns, Danielle has been recognized as: 10 Green Women We Love by Greenopia; one of the 75 Environmentalists to follow by Mashable; Top 50 green people to follow on Twitter by Greenopolis; A featured Changemaker by; A Measurement Maven of the Month by Katie Paine.

Yours truly will moderate.

Spaces are filling fast.  Register today!


Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Seek first to understand, then to be understood. It's good marketing.

This picture is from LittleGreenFroggy's photostream on Flickr.

A little girl was walking home from school with her mother.

"How was your day sweetie?" the mom said.

"Bad," the girl replied.  "I have a headache."

Surprised and concerned by her Kindergartner's pronouncement, the mother continued.

"Where does it hurt?"

The girl pointed directly at her stomach and said, "Right Here."

"Oh, no." said the mother.  "When you have a headache, it hurts here." She pointed to her forehead.  "When you have a tummy ache it hurts here." She pointed to her abdomen.

The girl fell quiet, pausing for a moment.

"Maybe when you have a headache it hurts your head, but when I have a headache it hurts my tummy."


Monday, June 7, 2010

I'm Cheating on My Church

I’m cheating on my church.  After lengthy conversations with my husband and long-suffering friends, we left the house on Sunday at 9:45 and drove in a different direction to arrive at ... Well, if I told you the location, it wouldn’t be cheating.

Infidelity is tough.  I feel sad, sorry, and sneaky – like betrayer and betrayed. I also feel excited about the possibility of finding a community where I can fully participate that better aligns with my values.

Here’s the thing.  People change.  The world changes.  Nothing stands still.  (Actually, some people and organizations do stand still but only at their own peril.)

Here’s another thing.  You’re not unique.  Lots of organizations exist to do exactly the same thing that you do.  That’s why there are so many "nonprofit prophets" out here telling you to PARTNER or find a fiscal sponsor instead of starting the 1,500,001st nonprofit.

In the for-profit world, they call this conundrum - competition.  It’s the reality of living in a global marketplace, where making knock-offs is not difficult and the next start-up is around the block.

What’s a church or nonprofit to do?


Survey like it’s going out of style.  Ask your members what they WANT.  Be a servant of their desires.  (Please don’t tell me that you still think that your organization is all about you.)   

Don’t reinvent the wheel, but do find ways to stay relevant and keep your best donors, volunteers and members engaged. And, don’t wait for Divine Intervention.  Do it now.

I may or may not find a new faith community.  You may or may not find a unique value proposition for your organization.  But you can LEARN to be responsive. (And, that may be unique enough.)  Keep the pulse of your community.  CARE enough to ask questions. ACT on the information you receive.  Wake Up!

The point here is that you cannot rest on your laurels if you want to stay in business.  You must REQUEST and RESPOND to the needs of your members.  You only do this by LISTENING and realizing that you don’t exist to serve the institution.  You exist to serve the community


Wednesday, June 2, 2010

On Being Sick

This photo is by Leonid Mamchenkov.

I had a crappy Memorial Day weekend.  Two highly anticipated gatherings with friends (including a wedding and our first barbecue of the summer) were stymied by pink eye. Yes, pink eye, that horrible dis-ease USUALLY reserved for elementary school kids.  Instead of swimming, drinking fruity cocktails and chatting up old friends and new, I slept through Sunday and Monday and endured painful eye drops. :(

But enough about me.  Let's talk about you!

What do you do when the world's got you down.  When things are DEFINITELY NOT working out as planned.  When your time-honored traditions and/or newly hatched inventions are fouled?

I bet you retreat.  Go into a corner somewhere and HOPE that things will roll over.  Or maybe you grouse WAY TOO MUCH until even your dog is tired of hearing your woes.

Life is challenging.  Both in catastrophic (think oil spill) and non-catastrophic ways (you just got turned down for another grant).  These are times to rest, regroup, and reach out for support but as organizations, we often HATE to share bad news.  Even when programs aren't making any progress and when we're way off of our fundraising projections, we continue to forge ahead and pretend that all is well.

I'd like to suggest an alternative.  How about telling the TRUTH about what's not working.  Not in an effort to whine or complain but in a sincere attempt to solicit feedback about how to IMPROVE. 

I know. Novel idea.  Most Executive Directors would rather quit than go to their boards, volunteers and donors with REAL questions about strategy. 

But think about the potential benefits. 
  1. People like to express their opinions (as long as the request for feedback is sincere).
  2. "Outsiders" are often more objective to our plight than we are, and thus, can brainstorm different options.
  3. Collaboration among diverse agents can reap truly unique insights and solutions.
The challenges we face as communities, countries and citizens are complex. (Certainly more complex than nursing a sinus infection). And, yet we are terribly reticent to try new methodologies for problem solving. 

One way to do something different is to start small.  Practice with the little things.  Ask your partner about his/her thoughts on your financial woes.  Reach out to your neighbors re: how to improve sanitation on your street.  In short, be honest about your failure and "sickness" as an organization and see what happens.  Exciting new plans, actions and relationships may be forged by this type of authentic and engaging dialogue.