WARNING: If you are a nonprofit staff or board member this post may very well make you uncomfortable. If it does, good. Keep reading. You are just the person it was written for.
Folks that work at nonprofit organizations seem to have a highly developed gratitude gene. We are fantastic at showing our appreciation for every donation, in kind gift, volunteer hour or snippet of media attention. It's part of the work many of us feel really good about. Gratitude is an honorable emotion, and the world at large could probably stand to have more of it, right?
We've got gratitude down. We practically wrote the book on it.
But here's the thing. While we are great at being grateful, we often suck at feeling worthy. And it's stopping us from thinking big, dreaming the big dream and creating maximum impact.
Now obliviously, there are organizations who fully understand and can articulate their worth. If this is your nonprofit, fantastic. You can stop reading now and get back to being a badass. You've got work to do - and most likely the resources you need to do it.
But if you're still with me, it may be that you are struggling to fund your mission, attract the board members you need and get the attention you deserve. In fact, some of the following may be part of your daily life:
- Your fundraising plan revolves around multiple special events. Because, you know, when folks buy a ticket (rather than just donating) they “get something" for their money.
- You have a closet full of 1970's office supplies, ratty furniture, broken computers, expired canned goods and the like, because you couldn't say "no", to these in-kind donations.
- You consider it a media "win" when one of your events is added to the community calendar in the local paper.
- Anyone who shows any interest in your work at all is instantly invited to be a board member.
If this is you, it's time to consider your worth.
I can imagine this might have you feeling a bit squirmy. In fact, I can almost hear the thoughts that are going through your head, right this very second.
"We need those special events - we just don't have relationships with big donors."
"If we were to say "no" to an in-kind donation it might cause hurt feelings."
"We're grassroots. It's lucky that the media ever notices us at all."
"We ask so much of our board members - we are blessed that anyone would take the time to serve on our board."
I don't know how we can understand our own impact but fail to embrace the value we provide to our community - but we do it all the time.
STOP. IT. RIGHT. NOW.
Nonprofits don't have needs. Communities have needs that nonprofits fill.
You meet important needs in your community. You know you do.
It's time to start acting like it.
- Financial investment in your mission - knowing the return on that investment is measured and realized in substantial community impact.
- Decent working conditions, along with fair compensation and benefits. Our work is important enough to need the VERY BEST staff to do it. Let's attract those folks.
- The most competent board members. Each one carefully selected because of the skills and connections they bring to the table.
- To have our story told.
- To be able to say "no" (politely) to offers of help or gifts in kind that don't meet our needs. Just because it's offered doesn't mean you must take it.
Until you believe these things you will continue to struggle. No one can believe them for you - you have own them for yourself. Saying you believe them isn't good enough. Your actions need to follow.
So, keep being grateful. Always. But damn it folks, PLEASE start embracing your worth. Our world needs you.