Non-profit lessons on Election Day 2012

I just love Election Day. There is a spirit in the air. People appear engaged. The precinct seems to run like a well-oiled machine. Systems are apparent and it feels like they work. For me, there is a feeling on connectivity to my fellow citizens as well as a historical connection to past generations. I just love Election Day!

As I stood in a variety of lines this morning, a number of different and random non-profit thoughts rattled through my brain. In an effort to be brief this morning, I’m just going to list those thoughts below so that you can run off to the polls and exercise your right to vote:

  • I believe the sense of engagement I feel on Election Day comes from people being able to express their opinion (aka vote). If non-profits want to replicate a similar sense of engagement, they should focus on asking clients, volunteers and donors their opinions (aka surveys, interviews, and focus groups).
  • I believe the sense of connectivity to something bigger comes from my knowledge of history (both news coverage and history textbooks). If non-profits want to replicate a similar sense of connectivity, they should focus on telling their story (including their journey line) and weaving it throughout their case for support.
  • The two men on today’s ballot who are running for President of the United States didn’t get there randomly. There was a severe vetting processes (aka Primary elections), and voters “kicked those tires” all in the name of determining whether or not they were worthy of being on the ballot. As so many non-profits look ahead to the beginning of 2013 and their annual meeting, they should remember the importance of “vetting” their board officers. Perhaps, this point is too strongly stated, but the bottom line is that we need to avoid asking “who wants to be a board officer” and put the effort into deliberately recruiting a slate for consideration (and recruiting people who have the time, ability and willingness to do the job rather than someone we can convince to hold the title).

Happy Election Day! If you already haven’t done so, please take a moment to go vote. It is one of the most fundamental rights we have as Americans. In fact, the office of “engaged citizen” (which we all hold whether we like it or not) is the most important unelected office in our great country. If you don’t do your job (e.g. cast an informed vote), then nothing works which perhaps partially explains why our governance systems haven’t worked very well in recent history.

As you most likely wait in a line today at the polling place, I encourage you to take a look around, observe what is unfolding around you and use those few precious moments of down time to apply what you’re seeing to your non-profit agency. You might just be surprised at what you conclude.

Here’s to your health! (And don’t stay up too late tonight watching Election night coverage)  😉

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


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