The Joy of Making a Difference in a Life…

The face on a special needs child just makes one want to smile. The exhilaration this young women is feeling is obvious and the life-long impact this moment has on her will be profound. There is no question. To be a part of that must be awe-inspiring. That is why many of us are in the nonprofit “business“ — to help others, to feel the joy that comes with changing lives, and to know that perhaps, just for a moment, we are making a difference. A difference not in the world but perhaps just with one life.

That’s perhaps the profundity of life – the idea that impacting one life can and will echo for eternity.

But in our more humble roles as leaders of nonprofits how do we stay focused on the day-to-day operations, including staff, program oversight, finances and everything else related to running a business, while staying focused on the outcomes of our efforts. It is very difficult, especially when you are wearing many hats. Hats that include fundraiser, human resource manager, and the all important complaint department head.

The reality for those in leadership is to stay focused on the mission of the organization regardless of which hat you are wearing. Why? Because your mission and goals must align with everything. Its that simple. If the two aren’t in alignment there will be incongruity of efforts that will lead to less success in one or both areas.

Let’s hear what the great Peter Drucker had to say in a Harvard Business article in 1989:

The nonprofits are, of course, still dedicated to doing good. But they also realize that good intentions are no substitute for organization and leadership, for accountability, performance, and results. Those require management and that, in turn, begins with the organization’s mission.

As Mr. Drucker correctly states, everything in the nonprofit organization begins with the organization’s mission (which starts with a clearly articulated mission statement) – – and how can it not when you think about it? It’s a simple, yet profound comment. Making sure everything flows from the mission and objective of your charity. It becomes the guiding principle for everything from hiring decisions to financial decisions and for sure fundraising and programmatic decisions. All in alignment. All with the same values attached. And all with the identical goal in mind — your charities primary mission. (Check out my previous post about mission statements…)

Its easy to lose sight of this at times. That is why its important to remind ourselves and our staff, at all levels, the reason why they work for your organization.

There are ways you can do this on a practical level – For instance, at the hiring stage. Make sure everyone you hire is passionate about what you do. They need to be part of the bigger picture from day one. From the receptionist and maintenance worker to the Executive Director, board member, and program directors. There is nothing that replaces passion. Period. They have to be 100% sold on your mission and be 100% committed to their job. Not just from the professional level but on a much deeper level – the level where true passion originates.

Look for passionate people. People that want to change the world.