So often as people motivated by change, we act on our ideas and passions but forget about the business management and logistics of operating and sustaining those passions. Many non-profits start with an idea, have round-table sessions of brainstorming, review their resources, and hit the ground running – which is incredibly awesome. As a non-profit manager and consultant, I have seen many dynamic organizations with dynamic purpose have the fire and desire to make a radical change within their community. As you go forward making incredible community change, remember to apply this rule of thumb: You must live and operate by the same structural component you’d like to give back to the community through your social change. In other words, your passion most likely adds a valuable structural aspect to our world; but don’t forget that your organization needs just as much or more structure in order to operate and remain effective to your community long after day one.
Key Components to Setting A Firm Organizational Foundation:
Identify & Fully Understand Your Precise Vision. Ideas for social change and community development typically derive out of a specific need and a passion to fulfill that need. Once your creative ideas and solutions begin to flow, make sure they are fully crafted into complete, wholesome visions that act as a catalyst for vigorous social change. Have the round-table, include people who share common ground, talk about it deeply, and lay every element of the vision right before your eyes.
Write The Vision, and Make It Plain. We all know this phrase so well, but let’s not forget the rest:
Habakkuk 2:2 And the Lord answered me, and said, Write the vision, and make it plain upon tables, that he may run that readeth it.
You can never get too far without a great road map or set of directions – ie, a full understanding of exactly WHERE you are going and HOW to get there. Now that you and your team understand the organization’s specific purpose and the overall vision, write it down! Derive a written action plan that stems from your overall vision. What community aspects need to be addressed; how will you carry it out; who will be on your team; what is your budget; how will you measure success? An organization must answer these questions in order to develop a “plain” plan that speaks the details of your organizational structure and your program process. I like to call it a Comprehensive Program Plan (CPP), which describes everything in detail from your mission and vision, to budgeting and cyclical planning – all resulting in a successful program and community initiatives. The CPP is everything about you, tailored to your organizational needs, and compiled in a manner that any member of your team can utilize as the basis for your program’s operational plan. You may also review it with team members, grantors, and partners. If you’re just starting your organization, you may also want to write a separate Standard Operating Procedure or Bylaws that address the fundamental operations and ethics of your organization.
Integrate the Right Team: Board, Team Members, & Partners. Passions flourish when a group of people and personalities act upon divine intention of predestined purpose. Meaning? They know their passion and purpose, link up with like-minded individuals and groups, put differences aside, and act upon faith and dedication to the overall mission. Watch out for time guzzlers and latchers that enjoy a good project, but may not be predestined for your organizational mission.
Implement and Practice Ethics. Sticking to the CPP and your organizational values is one of the keys to organizational success and fully impacting our society. The CPP can be enhanced with new program elements and evaluated periodically to ensure that the organization’s core values and growth still parallel the overall vision. Above all, practice ethical conduct and put measures into place to avoid major organizational pitfalls that may derail growth and your mission for social change.
Once you’ve developed a solid foundation, running the daily operational process just takes a positive commitment to the process. Ensuring you stay on track with your goals and having a committed team around you plays a major role in the success of each organization. Start with the end in mind – the vision to dynamically change and effect lives. By keeping this goal in the forefront, you will have a constant reminder of why you are so passionate in the first place.