Charlie Brown would’ve been a great non-profit executive director

charlie brownAs many of you know, I spent last week in California visiting friends and a whole lot of wineries in Sonoma County. During my adventures, we stopped at the Charles M. Schultz museum in Santa Rose, CA. It was one of the highlights of my trip. Not only did I get to walk down memory lane (because Snoopy and his friends were a big part of my childhood), but I was reminded of why I loved this cartoon/comic strip so much.

As I passed through one of the many exhibits on Charles Schultz’ amazing career, I was reminded of this very famous quotation by William Hickson:

“If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.”

How many times as a child did you see Lucy pull that football away from Charlie Brown as he flew through the air and crash to the ground?

It is an image burned in my head as I am sure it is for countless numbers of people around the world.


Charles Schultz drew this image over and over and over again because he wanted kids to understand:

  • Failure is part of life.
  • It is OK to fail.
  • When you fail, you simply pick yourself off the ground.
  • You never stop trying.

What an incredibly important lesson to learn!

On my first day back from vacation, I had the privilege of having lunch with a friend who is the executive director of a non-profit organization. While breaking bread and catching up on things, my friend reflected on his career path as a non-profit professional and he said something that made me think of Charlie Brown. He said people who strive to be an executive director need to understand that they will fail, and they will do a lot of it.

Wise words from a very wise man.

The following is just a short list of failures that I’ve seen in my years from executive directors and fundraising professionals:

  • Recruiting the wrong volunteer to do the wrong job.
  • Pairing the wrong fundraising volunteer to solicit the wrong donor.
  • Pursuing the wrong strategies at the wrong time.
  • Not adhering to best practices when they are so desperately called for.
  • Cutting corners and thinking the ends justify the means.

We’ve all been there. We’ve all failed. And we’ve all picked ourselves off the ground and pushed forward.

Do you have the soul of Charlie Brown? Do you look for this quality in the people you hire? What about in the people you recruit as volunteers? Please scroll down and share a story in the comment box about a time you missed the football and how it made you a better non-profit professional.

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847


  1. Hey Erik,

    This is the quote I was trying to remember yesterday.

    “The brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. Because the brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want it badly enough. They’re there to stop the other people.”
    ― Randy Pausch, The Last Lecture

    I love the post today!


  2. Great article – can apply both personally (in love) and professionally(in work) for me.

    I think some of my greatest failures come from not motivating properly,especially when it comes to encouraging volunteers to ask for a gift from a donor face to face.
    You can train and train and train on best practices, what to say, what not to say, how to use your body language to your advantage and still there are several instances where the meeting is just plain cancelled and/or the meeting is disastrous. I think it becomes more about the volunteer and their personal style (and of course, relationship with the donor) that will come across most naturally, genuine and authentic.

    1. I can totally relate to your comment, Teri. I think we need to meet people where they’re at and work from that point forward. I also think that we need to personally commit to going on visits with our volunteers and support those who need it with a very personal touch.

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