How to motivate Boards, a donor, and even development directors is a question we all face from time to time. I was lamenting this dilemma with a friend the other night, and she offered some words of wisdom. “It seems to me,” she said thoughtfully, “that they need to understand what I explain to my own children. You are your own GPS. You control the direction of your own life. If you don’t put in the right coordinates, you are not going to end up where you want to be.”
Ah-Ha – I said. The most effective motivation comes from within – not from without.
It is something we in the non-profit world need to consider today. For better or for worse, we control the destiny of our own organizations. We may hit a few bumps along the way and take a detour or two, but we have to control our own destiny if we are to succeed in fulfilling our missions.
Today, non-profits are facing challenges that haven’t been seen in decades and didn’t happen overnight. Over the past 20 years, there has been a proliferation of new organizations attempting to solve problems and issues that have been prevalent for a long time, often offering new solutions. This proliferation, while well-intended, has caused significant competition in the marketplace. If you layer the economic downturn and the pressure of budget cuts from state and federal sources on top of that, many non-profits find themselves in precarious and even tenuous positions. It is hard to imagine being the master of your own destiny in these circumstances.
However, this is the time to use your internal GPS to navigate the road ahead. There are a few things to consider as you do so:
1) Do you have a plan for the future? This is the time to carefully evaluate your short-term and long-term prospects. Is it a time for growth and are there opportunities for that? Is it a time to re-evaluate where you are and what your options might be?
2) Do you have a philanthropy plan? Philanthropy is the best way to control your own destiny. Whether you are moving into a growth mode, trying to stabilize your organization, or exploring options with other non-profits, philanthropic support allows your organization to approach the future from a position of strength.
3) Is your team highly motivated to go the distance? Every non-profit is only as strong as the sum of the people around them. Do they understand what it takes to survive, succeed, and thrive in today’s environment? This is a time for people to expand, grow, and step up to the plate in extraordinary ways.
4) Is it time to align forces with another? Mergers, partnerships, collaborations – these will be more than buzz words in the months and years ahead. Controlling your own destiny may actually mean finding the best organizational alignment to continue a mission that is vital and relevant.
So, let’s plug in that GPS, make sure it is fully charged, input the coordinates you need and steer in the direction that makes sense. Do this as individuals and on behalf of the people who depend on non-profits to help with their own internal GPS.