What Do You See?

Those with a vision are shaping the world. They see how things could be and chart a course that will create what they envision. Nonprofits are expected to shape the world around them.

Your community expects to be reshaped by your nonprofit. Your board has the power and the capacity to fulfill your community’s expectations. The first step is to commit to making a significant impact on your community. Most boards, and especially the boards of small nonprofits, stop before they start. They tell themselves they lack the resources, the skills, the money, the size, etc. They humbly believe they are unable to envision something of sufficient value. They tell themselves they are already doing all they can to change the world and without more resources there is nothing more they can do.

The leading tech companies are examples of once small organizations that are having a big impact. Most of them have very humble beginnings (a few people with an idea but no money). There are nonprofits in your community who were formed in the past few years and are growing rapidly. Their start was probably just as humble as Microsoft, Apple, Google, etc.

The rebuttal we often hear is “They are lucky. Mr. Bigbucks gave them a big gift to get them started and has continued to fund them generously. Anyone could succeed with that kind of support.” We see that as proof that a good vision is very important. Mr. Bigbucks gave them a big gift and continues to support them because he wants what their vision says he will receive.

Your nonprofit is a well-established member of your community. You have a proven process. You have a number of stakeholders and a history of success. Those are huge assets any startup would love to have. You are missing just one asset – a vision.

It is that simple. Cast a vision. Cast a vision that is too big, complex, and expensive to do alone. If your current vision is only large enough for the stakeholders you have, your ability to grow is limited by your vision and nothing more. Your limited vision is limiting the number of people who can help. The grandioseness of your new vision creates room for others to join you.

What your vision should be is much bigger than what you are doing. If your nonprofit is a struggling food pantry, stop thinking about hungry people. Envision what your community would be like if everyone was self-sufficient. That is a big problem that will attract many supporters. You can still pass out food but have a bigger purpose behind the food you distribute. Distribute the food in ways that encourage or enable self-sufficiency or create additional services that will develop self-sufficiency while distributing food.

Just like no one could predict what the big tech companies would look like today, no one can predict what your nonprofit will need to look like to fulfill your new vision. What you can do is envision the change you want to see. From there you can step forward and try to create what should be one of the components in your vision. Hopefully, it will be too big for your nonprofit to do alone. If so, you will be forced to share your vision in a way that will attract more supporters. With the new supporters helping you, your nonprofit will be well on its way.

Next Step:

Help your board to cast a big vision that solves a very important problem that is related to your mission

Take a small step forward to prove to the world that you are serious and will continue with or without the world’s help (prove your nonprofit and especially its leadership are passionate about the vision)

Ask current and prospective supporters to give you the support you need to expand your small step into a meaningful and noticeable step forward

Start talking about the next step forward before the current step is completed

Ensure you have input from a cross section of your stakeholders. Use their input to help you gather the support you need for your next step forward. If your stakeholders value your step forward, they will want to support your vision.

While it is unimportant how long it will take to realize your vision, it is very important that each step forward is meaningful, measurable, and durable. The steps forward should happen quickly, which means the size of the step must be carefully chosen. A steady succession of meaningful steps will make it easier to recruit new supporters and retain others. Each step must also be obviously mission centric and client serving as well as vision enhancing.

Take It Further:

Think about ways to engage other organizations (government agencies, for-profits, and nonprofits) in your vision (it is unnecessary for your nonprofit to be the central player in each step forward)

Preview your vision with senior community leaders (their support will help you gather supporters who are currently out of your reach)

Look for ways to expand your vision each year

Post to Twitter Tweet This Post


Comments are closed.