13 May Start Doing This to Get Your Nonprofit (and YOU) Back on Track
Something I’ve noticed for quite a while now is that we are now firmly rooted in an unusual epidemic. While so many people are still masking up and getting tested for a virus, they are unaware of one of the greatest threats we’ve ever faced. It’s the threat of not participating. Look around and you’ll see it everywhere. People have simply stopped participating.
Not long ago, I ran into a retired priest. During our brief chat, he told me he visited a nearby community last month, presiding at the weekend services. He’s been doing this for the past five years. In 2019, the weekend attendance was 1600. This year, the attendance was 400. What an astounding drop!
In my own community, I know of 8 schools that have a scholarship program for high school graduates. In total, there is $40,000 of scholarship money available. Three of the 8 schools have zero applicants. Two of the 8 schools have one applicant each. And the other three schools have two applicants each. Its mind blowing when you think about it. Free money is available. The applications are online. Nobody cares.
Everywhere I look, there are jobs available. I see signs in the windows of businesses that are looking for 15-to-19-year olds. Summer jobs are ready for the taking… and there are no takers. I can remember a time when a summer job was a source of pride for a teenager. A chance to prove they could, and an opportunity to earn money and be able to pay for things they enjoy, or put it aside for something special. That motivation and pride has been replaced by apathy. And sadly, that apathy doesn’t only exist in teenagers.
This strange new world shows up in weird ways. I went to an event not long ago. Upon check-in, we had to choose a color for our name badge lanyard. Green stood for “Yes, I want to participate fully”. Yellow stood for “I’m lukewarm, we can make eye contact and fist bump, but don’t touch me”. Red stood for “I’m here but I’m not comfortable and I prefer to be alone”. I found myself wondering why the people who chose red even showed up. How can you truly benefit – and how can others benefit from you – when you’ve decided to disconnect from people? This is exactly the predicament we’re all in right now.
Let’s talk about what you get from participating. What does it do for you? You get skills. You get connections and relationships. And you get a sense of purpose. In fact, participating is where your purpose starts to take root. Feeling good about what you did, learning from someone new, and stretching a bit. That’s the fuel that gets you up the next morning.
The lockdown two years ago required people to stop participating. It gave people a reason to drop out of life. They constructed their lives around convenience ~ under the guise of safety ~ fueled by fear ~ and became non-participating. Can you see it? The path I just laid out is precisely how it happened.
People are now trained not to trust. The real problem for us is that trust is the heartbeat of a nonprofit organization. Think about it. You’re asking people to do tasks that are not necessarily their expertise or comfort, but if the need is great, they’ll dive right in and do it. That’s the spirit of a nonprofit! But now, there are rules, cautions and checkpoints. So people say to themselves, “Ugh. Why bother?” What every nonprofit is facing right now is what I call The Spirit of Don’t. Don’t go out. Don’t trust. All because we’ve spent two years living with so many don’ts.
I’m very aware you might be reading this and realizing that you, too, have stopped participating. Have you given up air travel? Have you stopped going inside grocery stores and instead opted for grocery pickup? Have you stopped going to events and gatherings? Did you once live a full life in person, and you are now doing most of your interaction online? These are all indicators that you’ve stopped participating. And if you’re isolated and alone, so is your nonprofit.
Do you have a genuine desire to breathe new life into your nonprofit? You can…
First, it starts with a desire. That’s the first thing you must have. The second thing you must have is willingness. Those two foundational elements set the tone for a comeback.
Next, it’s on you to create it (whatever it is). With that in mind, create a project. Decide what you want the magic number to be. Do you want 100 people to participate? Great. If 21 shows up, go with it. This is critical. Resist the urge to cancel it. Cancel culture would tell you to simply give up. Don’t. Go with it. If you step back or sit down, there will be nothing. In a world of non-participation, something is always better than nothing.
Finally, resist the urge to accept the mediocre. Resist the urge to hang out on the lowest rung of the ladder – which is the same as not participating. Real participation is bringing your best, and bringing out the best in others. That’s who you truly are.
Just because an epidemic exists does not mean you must be part of it. This is what the rest of society doesn’t understand. You understand it because you’re among the select few who chose a life of purpose. If you’ve found yourself among the many (the non-participating), know that you can be part of the few (the participating) once again. You and your organization’s Mission are worth it.
Want help? I offer individualized coaching and consulting specifically tailored to meet you where you are, with the people and resources you have available to you, and with your goals in mind.
Reply to this message directly to set up a conversation. Even if we don’t end up doing work together, I promise our conversation will highlight a direction and solutions you haven’t yet considered.
Let’s start there.