Too Busy

My niece sent me this cartoon: image

As I read it, I could hear so many nonprofits (including, alas, some of my clients): “Go away.  We’re too busy being frantic and dealing with urgent stuff to focus on actually doing things better.”

I talk with a lot of nonprofits and they tell me that while they do good things, they are not successful by almost any definition.  Their programs are not efficient, their fundraising is non-existent, their boards—well don’t even get them started on that.  And their staff is underpaid and overworked.

So, I say, stop.  Take a deep breath.  And figure out what you must do to be efficient, effective, excellent.  Do some real strategic planning.

Understand what your purpose really is.  That sounds easy but I find that often too much stuff gets in the way.

For example, two of my clients provide services at no cost to the recipients.  And when I ask them about their mission, they tell me it is to provide those services at no cost to the recipients.

Wrong.  That is how they pursue their purpose, but it is not their purpose. Their purpose is actually the outcome that occurs (or they hope occurs) because of the services they provide. You discover that by asking what you aim to achieve.  Who is the group you aim to serve, and how do you do your work: what, in broad terms, ar the methods you use?  And, most importantly, what is your impact?

From that purpose or mission comes the vision—what do you hope to be in the next 5, 10, 20 years?  Larger, better, more effective? Another word for vision is goal.  And a goal is something that is broad and unmeasurable.  It is qualitative rather than quantitative. In other words, it is the difference you hope to make.

What, then, must you consider to reach that goal?

First consider, what are the things in your environment—internal and external—that support both your purpose and your goal?  What impedes them?  That support or impediment will affect the objectives that you must develop so you can move in the right direction.

Janet Levine helps nonprofits move in the right direction. Learn how she can help you at or contact her to arrange a free, 30-minute consultation.  Also consider becoming fluent in fundraising and purchase her book, available at Amazon