I spend time with many serving leaders who run wonderful nonprofits around the country. They range from hospitals to animal sanctuaries. They are big and small from good to great. What common factor do they all have in common? They all want to serve their communities. But are they on purpose?
I find the great nonprofits, the ones that are financially healthy with actively engaged communities and creating significant value to their stakeholders have a clearly defined purpose for their being.
It reminds me of a quote by Zig Ziglar “Kids don’t make up a 100 percent of our population, but they do make up 100 percent of our future. “ For many nonprofits serving their community, it’s hard to keep focused on the bigger picture. With all the things happening in the world today, how does the serving leader retain perspective on what they are trying to achieve? I thought it might be helpful to share what I’ve learned about remaining on purpose with the hopes that it will provide you a plan to help you get your groove back.
The first way to get back on purpose is to make sure you can define your purpose easily. It should fit on a tee-shirt or bumper sticker. If you don’t know what your target is you will have a hard time hitting it. The second advantage to a simple language is it’s easy to share with others.
The second way of being on purpose is being clear on what you’re not. When you talk to serving leaders at early stages of their organizations’ development, many have a big message involving everyone in their purpose. From my experiences, this is a formula for failure. Just because you can have everyone involved doesn’t mean you should. Focusing on people who want to be involved in your purpose that have a passion for your cause will help you achieve great things. One of my favorite examples of this rule of small numbers is the early Christian church. This organization was founded by less than two dozen men and women who initially shared their purpose with the world and it continues growing and attracting new followers today. It’s the same case for Buddhism, started small and continues evolving in its mission and reach. The Buddha only had a small group of followers at the beginning. It allowed him to spend more time teaching and less time administrating at the beginning. In this way, his early followers had a clear understanding of his key teachings. In a region of the world where there were so many different spiritual systems he created a movement that engaged the best from the many different movements. If you focus on trying to be everything to everyone, you miss your mark. By clearly defining the attributes of what you are not, you will continue to attract the right people to your efforts.
The final thought I have on being on purpose is that today people want to be more involved in fewer causes but want to make a bigger difference in the causes in which they are involved. The clearer you are on your purpose, the easier it is to attract people to your cause. You’re able to be clear in defining your purpose and you continue attracting the right people at the right time. Your purpose will continue to evolve, as will you. As your purpose gains momentum it will continue to attract followers that share and expand your mission. It continues growing.
Remember what Edith Wharton said when thinking about being on purpose. She said, “There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.“ Are you on purpose?