Everything I Didn’t Know About Running a Non-Profit, Part 2

A couple of weeks ago, I had a chance to reflect on all the work that The RNV has accomplished and all the work yet to be done.  A couple of things I’ve noticed remain absolutely the same; there is still a huge learning curve and much work ahead to make The RNV a successful nonprofit and you still have to really be passionate about what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. 

Yesterday, I had a chance to share a lot of things that I didn’t realize I had learned from being part of The RNV with a friend whom I recently reconnected with thanks to Facebook.  My friend Katie Foley is starting a nonprofit organization called Sustainable Stability which will provide permanent housing/work solution for individuals with bipolar illness in a supportive, structured, and therapeutic farm environment.   This is something near and dear to the hearts of many of us at The RNV and is a desperately needed resource for so many.  I sent her a message the other day just to encourage her and see if there was anything we could do to help.

She took me up on the offer and right away, the ideas started flowing and we were sharing lots of the ideas and suggestions that we had been given or things we had to figure out and struggle through.  Some of which, weren’t very useful for us, but based on what Sustainable is doing, they are great ideas.  The irony is that so many of those things that until pressed, we didn’t even know we knew them.  Awesome being able to share and help build up a most definately worthy cause.  If you want to help Sustainable or just share the love and encourage them, check out the Sustainable Stability Group Page on Facebook or you can follow Katie on Twitter.

I’ve also taken a lot of time to think about what else needs to be done besides just all the technical/business/marketing things.  Who are we and what do we want to accomplish?  One of the most important things that we’ve come up with is to revisit and recommit to our values.  Is what we are doing and sharing and saying authentic to what we believe?  Do we represent God’s love in our every day dealings? 

Humility has to be a big part of our authenticity.  Sure we’re still humans and we’re ambitious and of course want to be known as having made a difference, but its bigger than I’s and me’s.  Like most people its easy to become wrapped up in an “iCentric” culture.  Really, our whole individual perception is built around your personal perception and perspective of the universe around you, so it’s completely natural to think in terms of “I”.  But this is not how we want The RNV to be.  We want to replace the I’s with us’ and me’s with we’s.  Even though it likely does not come naturally at first because that’s not how we individually see the world, the more effort you put into replacing those words, the more you actually feel the words.

Personally, I’m fortunate for my Marine Corps background where the individual I’s are essential, but are made subordinate to the Corps and to mission accomplishment.  Each individual brings with them a unique perspective and skills and when they’re importance is recognized, they’re anxious to subjugate their individual ego for the good of the whole and to accomplish their mission.

Are you ready to join the fight? How can we build a partnership with you? Let us know what we can do together!

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Zappos.com, The Right Now! Vision and Delivering Happiness – C.V. 5 – Pursue Growth and Learing

“For the first few months, I found poker both fun and challenging, because I was constantly learning, both through reading different books and through the actual experience of playing in the field.  I started to notice similarities between what was a good poker strategy and what made for good business strategy, especially when thinking about the separation between short-term thinking (such as focusing on whether I won or lost an individual hand) and long-term thinking (such as making sure I had the right decision strategy).

I noticed so many similarities between poker and business that I started making a list of the lessons I learned from playing poker that could also be applied to business: 

  • Evaluating Market Opportunities
  • Marketing and Branding
  • Financials
  • Strategy
  • Continual Learning
  • Culture

Aside from remembering to focus on what’s best for the long term, I think the biggest business lesson I learned from poker concerned the most important decision you can make in the game…When to change tables.”  – Pg. 64-67 Delivering Happiness (Delivering Happiness Movement and the book)

There are opportunities to learn and grow that constantly surround us the key that Tony points out is to notice them and to apply them.  In fact the reason The RNV has the “What We’re Reading” section is to encourage each other to learn and grow more than that, we want the same for the people following us and to share their insights with us. 

We don’t just grow and learn from reading but from speaking, listening, observing and interacting.  If you sit at the same tables long enough, you acquire the customs, the skills and the traits of that table; this is important to learn the rules of the game and different strategies, but when do you move? To really experience what you’re capable of, you have to move on as your understanding and skills increase, but equally important Tony shares, is to know what stakes your playing for and why you’re at the table to begin with.  Learn what there is to be learned and decide are you defined by the table, or do you make your own?

For us, we’ve decided what the stakes are, the futures of the next generations of teens.  Luckily, while our success as an entity may be a gamble, God’s love is a sure bet.  So we encourage each other and our members to continue learning and growing to help each other and in the process yourselves and grow a community around you.  If God wanted for us to have all the answers on our own, there would be no need to depend on each other, no need for community, no need to listen to the needs and serve others. 

What do we need to learn about you?  How can we help each other grow?

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The Successful Failure

There are a couple of ways of dealing with failure in a leadership position: 1) Hide it, pretend it never happened or no longer exists; 2) Pass the buck and see who else can be blamed for it; 3) Begrudgingly take responsibility or 4) Wholeheartedly own it.  Having recently read a great blog by Mike Foster (People of the Second Chance) on the virtues of failure, I choose to own it.

As many of you know I recently went on a marketing blitz when I found out yesterday about a contest to win $1000 in seed money thanks to Casey Graham and The Change Group.  Needless to say, being completely self-funded and struggling with the runway phase of our startup the $1000 would be a huge boon to The Right Now! Vision.  All the contest required was to fill out the entry and submit a compelling short story about our plant.  I felt like I had that part covered even being able to explain why even though The RNV wasn’t a church in the technical sense, it should still be considered, done.    

Of course, I didn’t leave well enough alone.  I chose to try to make some buzz about it and encourage the supporters of The RNV to tweet, share and or leave comments on the website in support of The RNV being chosen.  So I employed my full toolbox of social media tricks having less than 24 hours to get some momentum.  Direct Facebook Messages, Group Page update and member messages, Fan Page update, personal page update, chats, text messages, tweets, emails, Tweetdeck scheduled tweets, phone calls, and a centralized blog post with clearly laid out instructions on what to do to help.  The results? ONE, re-tweet, one.   Since we’ve not been notified as of this posting that we’ve won, we’re assuming we failed, or did we?  I’m no social media maven or marketing guru but I know the contest support campaign was not an overwhelming success.  Even if we win the $1000, the campaign itself was a failure.  Does this mean that all the people who were contacted that are already supporters don’t really care or that my friends and family actually dislike me enough to not support something really meaningful?  Not  in the least.

It does mean that I need to reconsider blitz campaigns and their effectiveness and get feedback from the people who were contacted i.e., opportunity for market research and more importantly, building a personal connection with our followers, which in the long run is far more important and valuable than $1000.  But what else is important about this?  Remember the one person who re-tweeted our message?  Without naming names, I’ve known this person for some time.  Their view of religion is self-described as “being somewhere between agnostic and ho-hum.”  Their first thought when finding out about my involvement with The RNV was wondering if I had drunk the proverbial Kool Aid.  This person is also someone who doesn’t blindly buy into things and is quite discerning.  Yet, something about the authenticity and genuine desire of The RNV to reach out to teens, touched this ho-hum person enough to send a re-tweet.  One of the principles of The RNV is to remember the value of ONE.  If we make a difference in ONE teen’s life, sharing God’s love for them, than our whole mission has been a success.  Thank you “ho-hum” for reminding us on the value of ONE. 

The other interesting thing that makes this a successful failure?  I was planning to write Part 4 of my review of Delivering Happiness (online and the book) focusing on Core Value 4 – Be Adventurous, Creative and Open-Minded.  The example I was going to cite comes from Page 137:

“We spent the next several years focusing on improving the customer experience, strengthening our culture, and investing in our employees’ personal and professional development.
Looking back, a big reason we hit our goal early was that we decided to invest our time, money and resources into three key areas: customer service (which would build our brand and drive word of mouth), culture (which would lead to the formation of our core values), and employee training and development (which would eventually lead to the creation of our Pipeline Team.”

 I think that this wonderfully successful failure, just wrote the application of that Core Value for me.  The campaign was adventurous (the first time I had really attempted it besides the occasional blog notice) the application was creative and I commit to being open-minded about this failure and the lessons it has to offer.

How do you see this failure?  What should I have seen?  Would you like to join our volunteer marketing team, because we need you!

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