“We are this town’s best kept secret.”
“We’re just a small (substitute regional, independent, etc.) non-profit.”
“We’re embarrassed to hire a consultant, because we don’t want anyone to know what we are really like.”
Little has been written about non-profit esteem; the concept is usually applied to individuals –as in self-esteem. But non-profit organizations, by their actions and their words, express what they believe about themselves and their work. Like your personal self-esteem, you can grow your organization’s esteem. Growing esteem will pay off in many ways. It will increase your willingness to take thoughtful risks, to venture into new relationships, to act courageously and to seek beneficial partnership and resources, including funding, from significant others in your community. Hold your organization in high esteem. Others pick up on your attitude fast. The high esteem attitude draws others and their resources and funding to you.
Here is a three-prong approach to growing your organization’s esteem:
- Be worthy of high esteem
- Hold your organization in high esteem
- Help others to hold your organization in high esteem
Growth in all three can happen simultaneously.
Component One: Be Worthy of High-Esteem
- Do First-Class Work. Create first-class outcomes around an important mission. Provide value. All growth of esteem eventually rests on this.
- Wait for Jackie. When it’s important, hold out for the best. Do without rather than put up with mediocre or worse. Especially with hiring people –it is better to do without. If you must fill a void; use a temp service. A local congregation waited for over two and half years to fill a youth position. It wasn’t easy, people with children threatened to leave; some did. However, the wait paid off. In time, they hired an outstanding youth director, Jackie. Hold out for your Jackie.
- Beware of Free and Initial Low-Cost Solutions that are false bargains. These solutions cost a lot –just not upfront. By all means accept your print shop’s suggestions. Use the less expensive or on-sale paper, but if it doesn’t meet your goals it is no bargain. Likewise, a vendor who promises to do it for free, but makes you wait six months costs you organization as much or more than someone who provides immediate service at full price.
- Take Calculated Risks. Remember the first time you climbed to the high diving board? You stood at very tip of the board, toes over, feet secure, body wobbling, wondering if this new feat was a good idea. The other kids, all experts, holler for you to hurry up. Faced with the disgruntled mob behind, you dived. And, even if it was a belly flop, you were proud that you climbed high to take the leap. Take calculated risks to enhance your organization’s esteem.
- Hang With Believers. A teacher told the mother of a sharp-as-a-whip- child—that she didn’t think the little girl was all that bright. “I don’t see it,” the teacher said. The principal and the parent moved the child the next day. If a board member or other leader doesn’t see your worth, its time for a change. You need believers. Surround yourself with them.
- Adjust You’re Thinking. Recognize that non-profits inherently do hard work–more difficult than businesses or governments. The non-profit works in a place between those two sectors and does a great job in places those sectors pass over. How do you feel about your own organization? Really? Don’t let the imperfections that exist everywhere mar your overall assessment. Cease thinking of your organization as second-class citizen. You make a difference.
- Calculate the Value You Create. In a recent blog on The Non Prophet, Stewart Stearns, President and CEO of the Sarasota Community Foundation, wrote about “Bring Your Dad to School. ” (See https://www.cfsarasota.org/NonprofitCenter/Blog/tabid/376/EntryId/138/Are-our-social-programs-doing-any-good-Stewart-Stearns-shares-a-Connecting-Fathers-Families-story.aspx ) Locally, over 7,000 dads participate in this event each year. If this was your program, how might you estimate the value those dads add? Right now, the Independent Sector’s rate for volunteers is $20.25 per hour. Assuming, from when they walked in the door until they left the school property, each dad spent one hour, that’s 7,000 dads x $20.25 or $141,750 for one year. Estimate a value for what you do. You’ll probably see that instead of being little, its a big, hairy, important contribution. (For more on this listen to this podcast: https://www.kedconsult.com/other-resources.) Find ways to calculate and then, express the value you provide. The value is the basis of your obtaining the funding you need.
- Build Your Own Self-Esteem. Read one of Nathanial Branden’s, Glenn Schiraldi’s or other’s books. Self-esteem is a skill. The more you increase your own, the more you can help your organization. It’s the “don your own oxygen mask first” concept.
- Positive Branding. If your tree falls in the forest, does anyone hear it? Wait a minute, what are you’re doing alone in the forest? You’re a non-profit leader. Why aren’t you with a donor, staff member or client? You need to form an enthusiastic community around your mission. If you are the world’s best-kept secret –do something. What can you do? Start a website, blog or Facebook page. Create press releases with timely stories. Become the go-to organization for your mission. Mention these resources on your email signature line. Have one person dedicate one-hour per day year-round to this. Start with one media, like a newsletter. When that’s underway, begin a second. Over eighteen months, experiment with different methods and styles. You have a myriad of possibilities to get your name “out there” and brand yourself positively.
- Identify What Needs to Be Said. Closely related to the above is to find the right words to describe your work. How do you set yourself apart? Successful strategic conversations help you to create the right words to explain your contribution. Use the right words repeatedly to explain who you are and why you do what you do. For more, see the blog The Magic of Thirty-Five. For even more, call me so we can begin to work together to identify your core funding and strategy solutions..
- Identify Who Needs to Hear. Once you have a handle on the words that convey your message, consider who needs to hear them. Who needs to know them? “Everyone” is too big an audience. What smaller groups of the population will respond to your message? How can you help these people to know you and help spread the good news about your important efforts?
Component 2: Hold Your Organization in High Esteem
Component 3. Help Others to Hold You Organization in High Esteem
High esteem organizations say things like, “We are a recognized and valued partner in our community, and “Even thought we are just a small (substitute regional, independent, etc.) non-profit, we make a tremendous difference in the lives of those we serve.” Growing your organizations esteem will yield high esteem results including more resources and funding for your mission.
For more about building a healthy organization, read identify your best gifts.
To learn more about how to grow as a leader, link here.