“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 nonprofit esteem; the concept is usually applied to individuals –as in self-esteem. But nonprofit organizations, by their actions and 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. It will increase your willingness to take thoughtful risks, to venture into new relationships, to act courageously, and to seek beneficial partnership and resources. When you hold your organization in high esteem, others pick up on your attitude fast. High esteem draws others and their resources 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. Provide value. Esteem growth stems from 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: do without. Use a temp service to fill a void. A congregation waited for over two and a half years to fill a youth position. It wasn’t easy, people with children threatened to leave. Some did. The wait paid off. They hired an outstanding youth director, Jackie. Hold out for Jackie.
- Beware of Free and Initial Low-Cost Solutions that are false bargains. Many such solutions cost a lot –just not upfront. By all means, use the less expensive or on-sale paper, but if the results don’t meet your goals, pass. Likewise, vendors that promise free service, but make you wait months costs your organization big time.
- Take Calculated Risks. Remember the first time you climbed to the high diving board? You stood at the 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 the result was a belly flop, you were proud that you climbed high to leap. Take calculated risks.
Component 2: Hold Your Organization in High 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 someone else doesn’t see your worth, make a change. You need believers. Surround yourself.
- Adjust You’re Thinking. Recognize that organizations do hard work. How do you feel about your organization? Really? Don’t let the imperfections that exist everywhere mar your overall assessment. Cease thinking of your group as a second-class citizen.
- 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 ) Over 7,000 dads participate in this event each year. If this was you, how would you estimate the value? The Independent Sector’s current 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 value for what you do. Instead of being little, I bet you’re making a big, hairy, 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 Self-Esteem. Read one of Nathanial Branden’s, Glenn Schiraldi’s or other’s books. Self-esteem is a skill. Increase your own to help your organization. “Don your oxygen mask first.”
Component 3. Help Others to Hold You Organization in High Esteem
- Positive Branding. If your tree falls in the forest, does anyone hear it? Wait a minute, what are you’re doing alone in the woods? You’re a leader. 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 your resources in your email signature line. Start with one media, like a newsletter. When that’s underway, begin a second. Over the eighteen month experiment with different methods and styles. You have a myriad of possibilities to get your name “out there.”
- Identify What Needs to Be Said. Closely related to the above is to find the words to describe your work. How do you set yourself apart? Successful strategic conversations help you to create tt words that explain your contribution. Use these words repeatedly. Explain who you are and why you do. For more, see the blog The Magic of Thirty-Five. For even more, call me to identify your core strategies.
- Identify Who Needs to Hear. Once you have a handle on words that convey your message, consider who needs to hear them. “Everyone” is too big an audience. What sub-groups need your message? How can you help these people to know you and help spread your good news?
High esteem organizations say things like, “We are a recognized and valued partner,” and “We make a tremendous difference in the lives of those we serve.” Growing your organization’s esteem will yield more resources and funding for your mission.