Were you around when your organization was founded? If not, think about what that was like. There was probably one person that said, “This is a really critical cause, and we have to do something about it.” So the founder probably spent many sleepless nights considering how to address the problem, then she spent days and nights meeting with community leaders, potential donors and others to describe the problem by telling stories about what she had seen. Then, she spent hours and hours converting interested people into actual donors.
This wasn’t a part of her life. It was her life. When she met with people, she couldn’t help but recruit staffers and donors. She’d just naturally start talking about the cause, and the passion would flow, and her listeners would get caught up in the current and start heading downstream with her.
So now, the founder is gone. The current executive director came from another organization, perhaps one that was completely unrelated to this cause. He is dedicated to this cause and so is the staff. The board members recognize the need to address this problem, so they are interested and participatory.
But are they all passionate about this?
The primary difference between for-profits and nonprofits is that the foundation of a nonprofit is a passion for the cause. Without that, it may not be able to function well or function at all.
Think about that. Why might it be that……….
- …you’re having a hard time hiring the right executive director, or
- …staff members seem to want to get out the door even before 5:00, or
- …you can’t get the big donors you used to, or
- …you have a hard time getting a quorum for board meetings, or
- …none of the board members want the board president role?
I’m addressing this issue because many of the symptoms we see at nonprofits may not be simply the logistical issues of fundraising shortages, staff recruiting or board member dedication. It may be that there is no longer someone who is so passionate that staff, donors and board members are just naturally motivated. It doesn’t have to be a founder. It might be the Executive Director, the Board President or another board or staff member.
There are many reasons that nonprofits might be struggling. I’m suggesting that sometimes the diagnosis may go deeper than the outward symptoms. It could be about passion.
I really don’t have a solution for this issue. Is there one? Can we create passion or find it? Or do we just keep struggling along?
Let me know your thoughts.