I’ve had this headache behind my left eye. I get this from time to time and periodically, it becomes more than an annoyance. It doesn’t literally or figuratively impact my vision but puts a physical boundary on how long I work, which I mostly appreciate. (If my Mom is reading this, she’s wondering if it’s a migraine. If my Dad is reading this, he’s thinking I need to go to the eye doctor.)
I have this same headache this morning and I think it’s the third or fourth day. (Ask my Mother, and she’ll tell you the exact moment this headache began. She may also ask if you believe it’s a migraine. I’m just trying to prepare you.)
Aside from my ouch-y head trip, today, I woke up reflecting on the state of a nonprofit’s staff. I’ve been thinking about how I almost always dive headfirst into things that inspire me. Otherwise, I don’t really spend much time on them. I think this is healthy, but if you don’t think so, let me (and my Mother) know and I’ll stop it. Just kidding. I totally won’t stop.
As I dig deeper into an organization’s fundraising practices, which engages me to no end, I always look to the people who are closest to it. How does the staff feel? Are they pumped about the mission? In my many years of experience in making a conscious choice to move from for profit to nonprofit, I have found that most staff members are inspired and passionate about a mission. This is a good start to success,
BUT, and it’s a BIG BUT,
You can’t sit in the passion of the mission OR DEPEND ON IT to raise all of the funds. It’s not enough. In fact, I would argue that too much dependency on a mission can be a nonprofit’s greatest failure.
Okay, let me explain – First of all, I am as passionate about certain causes, missions, nonprofits, etc. as anyone I know. For me, this stems from an unwavering love for individuals and the betterment of humankind, without exception. I think many of us are built that way in the nonprofit field. Too often, however, organizational leaders and really, the entire staff can become so mission-focused, they forget to support each other. They don’t celebrate each other’s victories, and they don’t take the time to notice what’s happening within the office they work at 50+ hours a week.
I have witnessed numerous organizational staff, so stressed and depressed, that they can’t see straight, let alone focus on a mission.
So, while I try to move a mission forward and raise dollars to ensure the success of an essential drive to repair this world, I don’t actually obsess over a mission or even rely on it as a consistent thing to fall back on. My process is to create total buy in from myself, and once I have that, I look at and totally invest in the innards of an organization.
If your staff is depressed, and too many nonprofit staff are in my opinion, try looking in the mirror and asking yourself, “Am I supporting, cultivating, stewarding and celebrating my coworkers?” If the answer is, “YES,” I would guess it’s contagious to your colleagues. If your staff is celebrating each other, my next guess is that you are moving your organization’s mission much farther than a staff who isn’t really ignited or supported by each other.
If you’re not reflecting on or investing more deeply internally than anything you do externally, you aren’t really seeing all you can see. It’s pretty distorted, kind of like a fun-house mirror. Ultimately, it’s not much fun at all and if you’re not having fun, why are you working there?
So, I’m thinking that this is why I have a headache this morning. As much as my left eye hurts right now, I am psyched to have an external-facing meeting this morning with an incredible philanthropic genius who I love dearly. She is not, however, any more important than my ORT colleagues here in Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Boca Raton, Cleveland or Detroit. I am more dedicated to lifting my coworkers up than I am to elevating a mission. Perhaps charity really does begin AT HOME, and that home has to be taken care of. If the home flourishes, the organizational mission AND fundraising will flourish too.
If your house is taken care of, you have everything you need to venture outside. I wish you great success. Tell me about it. I will celebrate your awesomeness.