Is mission-focus difficult? Try being green!

Those of you who know me know that I look for philanthropy and inspirational non-profit and fundraising messages and lessons under every little rock on the path of life. I recently re-read one of my favorite books — “It’s Not Easy Being Green: And Other Things to Consider” — written by Jim Henson, The Muppets, and Friends. While many of the short stories and quotes in this book can probably be applied to many of life’s little lessons, I will use excerpts this week and apply them to non-profit work, fundraising and philanthropy. I encourage you to get a copy of this inspirational little book and¬†keep it close by at all times because I guarantee it will be a source of inspiration for years to come.

Let’s start the week off by looking at the idea of “mission-focus” through the eyes of the puppet master himself, Jim Henson:

“I cannot say why I am good at what I do, but I can say that I work very hard at it. Nor am I aware of any conscious career decisions. I’ve always found that one thing leads to another, and that I’ve moved from project to project in a natural progression.

Perhaps one thing that has helped me in achieving my goals is that I sincerely believe in what I do, and get great pleasure from it. I feel very fortunate because I can do what I love to do.”

I decided to start this week’s series of posts with this Jim Henson quote because it reminded me of a very good friend and non-profit executive director with whom I recently shared a cup of coffee. During that meeting, she waxed poetic about her decades of experience running her non-profit agency. She never looked at what she does as a job or career. She barely sleeps and spends most of her waking hours thinking about her agency. She doesn’t view any of it as work . . . it is just something she does out of a sense of love and passion.

There are nine keys to inspiring and engaging your board and volunteers in fundraising success (or really anything else associated with your agency). One of those nine keys is “mission-focus”. This essentially means that board members and volunteers will be more successful at whatever they’re being asked to do if they can see how it effects and advances the mission of the organization.

In other words, when volunteers are just focused on “raising money,” then it can become an arduous and fearful type of activity. However, when board members see the annual campaign or special event fundraiser as something that will help countless people get [insert your mission here e.g. gain access to healthcare], then they will find passion and energy for fundraising.

If you take Jim Henson’s inspirational words to heart, then they beg the question about hiring practices for non-profit professionals and recruitment practices for board members and volunteers.

After all, wouldn’t it be a heck of a lot easier to maintain an intense mission-focus on everything from fundraising to finance to revising the agency’s policy manual if those sitting around the table believed as Jim Henson did: “…I sincerely believe in what I do, and get great pleasure from it”?

How does your agency find people like this when conducting an employment search? What practices do you put in place to attract those who don’t see the job they are applying for as a “job”? What questions do you ask during the interview to get at this sense of mission-focus? Likewise, how do you identify potential board members and volunteers like this? What questions to do ask volunteers to determine if they’re interested in serving based on a burning passion for your mission? For those board members who slip through the cracks and join your ranks for other reasons (perhaps business or professional reasons), how do you instill a sense of mission-focus?

Lots of questions! Please scroll down and use the comment box to provide some answers. Remember, we can collectively answer all of these questions and learn from each other.

Here’s to your health!

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