I got started in nonprofit work after a discussion with a friend about my “greater yes.” It is a concept a pastor shared: matching your God-given gifts with your area of passion. He said when passion and skills intersect you find your “greater yes” and how you are wired to make a difference.
That journey led me to connect with a local life-affirming pregnancy center, work in development, and discover the gift of fundraising – matching doers and donors. The rest, as they say, is history.
My story is one variation of what many have experienced. When we venture into nonprofit work, particularly faith-based work, the driver is passion and impact. Simon Sinek, author and speaker, suggests a shift in thinking that furthers the “greater yes” concept. He challenges the way we consider nonprofit work and how we may adjust to have greater impact.
With his two-minute message as a starting place, consider these three opportunities for your nonprofit work to have more impact.
- Clarify your mission and vision. What is your why? Share it clearly. Do not lead with your tax classification. Instead, lead with your why and what.
- For-impact organizations, Simon Sinek’s term for nonprofits, feed, shelter, educate, inspire, rescue, save, and nurture around the globe. This work matters. Articulate stories by giving the problem a personal impact.
- Tell the outside world about the work you are doing. Share your vision, the problem, how you solve the problem, and the impact you are having. Take a look at our executive summary for guidance on how to lay this out for donors.
- Value your work appropriately. The work you do is important. Don’t short-circuit yourself with skinny salaries, counting copies and pinching pennies. Stewardship and frugality are often viewed the same, but they are not. Show your organization, internally and externally, that they matter by investing in the infrastructure.
- Recruit talent and expertise and compensate competitively. Altruism itself is rewarding, but that will not pay the mortgage. Passionate talent should be rewarded fairly and not be driven to burnout. Show staff they are valued and excellence becomes more routine. The “greater yes” I found included my skills that had been utilized previously in sales for a Fortune 50 comp While I did not expect all the benefits and salary I enjoyed before, it was still important to feel valued and appreciated.
- It takes money to have impact. Overhead is a fact, so do not scrimp if it compromises the level of work you do or the funding you attract. Be good stewards and be realistic. Invest in the systems necessary to do the work, keep (relative) pace with technology, marketing and branding, and position your organization for success.
- Look for collaboration opportunities. There are two ways to do business: cooperatively or competitively. It is the same in the for-impact space. How do you approach your work? I encourage you to look for ways to collaborate with other organizations in your cause or in the region you serve. How can you serve more holistically? What do they do well? What do you need help with? What do you do well that can complement another organization?
- Be distinctive. Look for partners to collaborate with and seek funding for key joint-initiatives. Ministry donors love to see the Church working together. And, by the way, so does God.
- Seek to understand, then be understood. It is one of Stephen Covey’s most memorable habits from The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, yet the one most difficult to master. What can you learn from other organizations, ministry causes, industries and experts? Integrate these learnings for your own ministry.
Success is measured in lives touched and making distinguishable change for good. For-impact profit is measured in impact, not shareholder returns. Evaluate what you need to tweak to grow your impact. Articulate your mission. Position your organization for success. Collaborate to increase effectiveness.
Find your organization’s greater yes for greater impact.