This was my first assignment with The Frontier Project, a Richmond-based organization dedicated to changing workplace culture. I've been fascinated by their mission, and was excited to get an assignment that breaks my own mold. So often, I'm writing profiles or interviewing experts about complex subjects. This time, I got to do some of my own research into inspiring nonprofits for an activism themed issue of their publication, Dispatches.
Nonprofits aren't known for having endless money and resources. They have to do a lot with a little, and prove the value of every investment, big or small.
Some of the most powerful forces for good are masters at marrying shoestring budgets with grit, determination, and creativity--and any company can borrow from that playbook.
Here, we share a few lessons from nonprofits at the top of their game.
Keep your mission simple.
It's easy for mission statements to turn into lengthy lists that read like a thesaurus, obscuring inspiring and admirable goals in long-winded jargon.
In just one sentence, charity: water communicates their focus to bring clean and safe drinking water to people in developing countries. From there, any number of benefits can follow, like education, income, and health--but water frames them all.
That simplicity can breed creativity. When you have a mission that's open-ended, yet specific, you build a framework with space for innovative ideas. It becomes a rallying cry that helps everyone involved understand their role in the bigger picture.
Connect smart people.
Direct Relief spans the globe to bring medical supplies and healthcare providers to underserved communities. Only they're not necessarily the boots on the ground. Instead, they build a collaborative network of medical companies and professionals, and leverage those relationships to strengthen local health systems Take their partnership with Pfizer, which brought medicine to HIV-positive patients in more than 60 countries.
Shift your focus to bringing the right people to the table and enabling them to do what they do best.
See the problem; own the solution.
For nearly 25 years after the first successful organ donation in 1954, doctors had no way to connect a donor at one hospital with a patient at another. That is, until a group of people seized on budding technology to create a computerized matching database called United Network for Organ Sharing. When the federal government caught up in 1984 and called for a national network to allocate organs, guess who won the contract?
Today, an average of 92 organ transplants take place every day in the U.S.--and UNOS coordinates every one of them.
When you spot a challenge in your industry, don't be afraid to take the lead. You might just become the place that everyone else turns to for answers.
Never stop evolving.
For decades, The Stop was a basic Toronto food bank. Volunteers in cramped quarters distributed whatever food they could find to needy neighbors.
When Nick Saul took over, he saw the problems ran deeper and the solutions more complicated. He set out to rethink what a food bank should be. He started by bringing in higher quality, fresh foods. The Stop now has gardens and a greenhouse, kitchens and cooking lessons, farmers' markets and community action programs.
Saul left The Stop after 15 years--but for good reason. He now brings his social justice and community empowerment approach to a network of food banks throughout Canada.
Never stop looking for innovative ways to expand and evolve your core mission.