As non-profit leaders it is time to go to a new level of honesty with ourselves and those we serve. It is time for questions we may have put off. Questions such as “Are our current operations best serving our community?” “How could we do things differently to be of greater impact?” “Should we phase out some programs and introduce new ones?” “Is our mission relevant?” “Is there a more effective or more efficient model of service delivery?” “Should we consider merging with another organization?” “Who could we partner with?”
These questions are pressing given today’s realities. They are a doorway to the future, even though we may not know where we will end up as we summon the courage to ask them. They may represent the road less traveled; they may lead us to where we need to be.
As the year comes to an end, we can reflect and step up in a new way. We can call on our internal strengths, and the relationships we have developed over time. We can bring stakeholders and those we serve together to examine community needs and how our programs and advocacy meet – or don’t meet – those needs. We can identify gaps in service, and duplication of efforts. We can move beyond commitment to our individual organization and its mission, and look at ourselves in the context of the larger community, or eco-system we are a part of.
This organizational change – or challenge – mirrors our individual changes and challenges. So many of us have had to reinvent ourselves, change our expectations. There is loss in letting go of what we thought would come to pass. For many it is accompanied by the emergence of a new strength. A new resilience. New competencies are uncovered; connections and relationships are rekindled. We are forced to do things differently as the old ways won’t work. And somehow we find our way.
What is true of us as individuals, and families is also true for us as a community. The way things used to be isn’t the way things are anymore. For many non-profit organizations there is the continuous process of doing more with less. There are smaller budgets, smaller staffs, and more demand for services, advocacy and solutions. And there is more competition as organizations and institutions increase their fundraising and turn to individuals, corporations, government agencies and organized philanthropy in new ways, with new appeals, in hopes of securing new funding. The dreams of a new building, expanded services, or even continuing support from long time supporters may seem out of reach.
But the questions we now ask may contain the answers we need. We can seek guidance for ourselves and those we serve. We can ask questions in conversation with others who can help us see what we cannot currently see or imagine. Today’s challenges can be a touchstone for a better future.