Helen Keller

Helen Keller's Nonprofit Wisdom

We have all been placed on this earth to discover our own path, and we will never be happy if we live someone else's idea of life. ~Helen Keller

As a child, I was a bit obsessed with Helen Keller.  While she was a hugely important figure to me, I never thought I'd be quoting her in one of my blogs.  And I don't think that she ever intended for the quote above to be interpreted as nonprofit management wisdom. But it occurred to me upon reading her words that often organizations compare themselves to other organizations and are disappointed with what they see.

"How did they get that grant?"  "Why did so-and-so join their board and not ours?"  "How come we're not growing as much as they are?"  "Are we ever going to be able to have office space as nice as theirs?"

Of course we are all aware of the competition among organizations in the nonprofit space- for attention, for dollars and for survival.  Even in collaborations across organizations, there is often a subtle (or not-so-subtle) competitive thread.  We all want to believe that our organization is the best, fulfilling its mission and providing its community with everything they need.  But sometimes, reading another organization's newsletter, or attending another's fundraising event, there's that gnawing thought that you're falling short in comparison.

What do you do about this "grass is always greener" angst?  Well, here's a reality check for you: You don't really know what is happening behind the doors of their (more beautiful than yours) office. They might be struggling with major financial challenges.  They might have a seriously dysfunctional board.  They might be envious of YOU. They might be thinking, "How come they have such great social media presence?"  "How do they do so much great programming with so few staff?"  "Why are they always getting quoted in the media?"

It would be easy to say, "Stop looking over your shoulder at the other guys."  That's not what I'm saying.  Instead, be aware of the other guys.   There will always be other organizations that you look at as something you aspire to be, and there will always be other organizations breathing down your neck.  Competition can be healthy, if you look at is as a motivator.  Put your head down and focus on YOUR mission, YOUR community, and YOUR fundraising. Be an organization that other organizations are envious of.

Let's talk about how you can have the best organization possible.  Contact me at ewoolfe@intuitionconsult.com.