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Saturday, January 3, 2009

Staying True to Your Guiding Principles

Jimism #171 - "There is a difference between serving your community and protecting your commodity."

Most nonprofits are truly committed to serving their communities. They understand that the reason they exist is because there are real people with legitimate needs for their services and outreach. These organizations fully invest their funds and resources to meet those needs. When faced with difficult times, these philanthropies dig deep and make sacrifices all the while striving to maintain the quality services and the quantity of those served.

Sadly however, some nonprofit organizations forget their mission. They forget that they exist to serve. But let’s face it, organizations don’t make decisions, people do. And it can be devastating when a decision maker or influential board member begins to hamper an organization’s effectiveness in pursuit of their own agenda.

Why?
What might cause someone to pursue paths that seem contrary to their philanthropy’s mission?

Fear
Are they merely frightened? Do they begin to “hunker down” and impose a scarcity mentality that can be debilitating to their team, their volunteers and their constituents? If so, is their fear based on what’s good for the organization or on self-preservation?

Agenda
Is this a pattern of behavior? Are their actions temporary due to conditions or do they seem motivated by a pursuit of personal power or empire building? Is there a preoccupation with protecting individual legacy?

Identity Crisis
When these motivators are in action, decision makers begin to function more and more like a “profit before principles” business manager. They lose organizational vision. They become margin driven.

Appearances
Reality can be less important than the perception that is created by the right chart or graph. They’ll cut expenses to create an illusion of growth. They’ll restrict spending and diminish services strangling the organization and squashing the motivation of their team and volunteers.

If you’re a “business,” there’s nothing wrong with making a profit. But if profit is not your mission, if hefty balance statements are not a part of your vision, why should they guide your decisions?

Getting it Right
I started out by talking about what effective philanthropic organizations do right. They stay true to their mission of service. They remain guided by their organizational vision. They are dedicated to service before self. They are fortunate to have leaders that refuse to be only managers.

When times are tough, these individuals and organizations will be at their best.

---You can ride this wave too.

INNOVATE
Embrace change as a tangible resource that can redefine how you get your work done. Boycott the phrase… “That’s the way we’ve always done it.”

CREATE
Nurture partnerships that can create greater efficiencies than either partner can deliver alone. Tear down the fences. It is a pointless park that no one gets to play in.

EXPLORE
Discover new value patterns. What can you do differently? What can you “refine” and do better? What should be repeated and what should be rejected?

We’re all facing difficult times.

So when you have to make a tough decision in your next meeting, pose this question…

“Are we serving our community or merely trying to protect our commodity?” Jimism #171

View more Jimisms at the GoalBusters Website.

Connect with GoalBusters: LinkedIn - Alice Ferris / LinkedIn - Jim Anderson / Facebook / Twitter / YouTube / Myspace

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