Not that anyone thought about it exactly that way.
We thought were talking about how to be careful with spending, about prudent choices about programming.
We were talking about what we couldn’t have and what we couldn’t do.
Of course, we talked about fundraising closing the gap between what we have and what we need. But it wasn’t a realistic conversation.
We weren’t thinking about what the community needed, or what donors might want to fund.
When it came to fundraising, it was more like wishful thinking. (“Oh we’ll just get a sponsor for that!”)
And then the conversation even turned dismissive: “Well, that’s Development’s problem. Now let’s get back to what we’re really about.”
I think we have it all backward.
Donors aren’t motivated by our budget. And they’re probably not inspired by how much fiscal prudence it’s wrapped in.
Our supporters look to us for the big idea, for the “vision thing”.
They look to us to show them not what can’t be done, but what can be done – with them.
I’m not suggesting that we should spend money wildly or thoughtlessly. I don’t think this is about spending at all, actually.
But it is about priorities.
How do we decide what’s important?
Do we protect the status quo – staffing, pet projects, things we do because we’ve always done it that way?
Or do we refocus on the mission and what we can do to further it?
From my point of view, that conversation felt a bit like circling the wagons:
Everyone, tighten up! Close ranks and protect the most critical things!
Doing that leaves our most important partners out.
Wouldn’t it be better if our donors and the people we serve were part of the conversation?
Which side of the circle are they on?
You don’t make good decisions from inside the barricades.
And you don’t get things done by focusing on scarcity.
That’s not inspiring, it’s not uplifting and it’s short-sighted.
That day, I sat there and wondered:
Are we circling the wagons or circling the drain?
Wouldn’t it be great if we focused on what we can do?
What if we joyfully envisioned solutions to problems and invited people to help?
If we put aside the programs we continued simply out of habit?
I think we’d get a lot more done and feel better doing it.
(This piece on How to Create an Abundance Mentality is focused on personal development. But I think there’s good advice for us in the nonprofit world as well.)
Photo thanks to Ryan McGuire at Gratisography