When You Lose the Vision

“A vision is not just a picture of what could be;
it is an appeal to our better selves, a call to become something more.”

- Rosabeth Moss Kanter –
(The former Editor of Harvard Business Review)

Nonprofit Vision by DonorExpress SoftwareNapoleon Hill, the creator of the great book “Think and Grow Rich“, once told a story about a man who discovered a rich vain of gold and purchased all the equipment he needed to extract the gold. After a short while the vain of gold abruptly ended and in frustration the man sold the mine for pennies on the dollar. The new owner had the vision to bring in a geologist who found a fault in the earth that had shifted the vain of gold and after an adjustment in the digging, picked up the vain again which turned out to be one of the richest gold mines ever. The original owner could have been a very wealthy man if he had not lost faith in his vision.

This is also true with the nonprofit community. Every nonprofit organization has a mission that they hope will have a positive effect on humanity as a whole. The challenge is not to allow the events of the day to day operations take away from the true purpose they are trying to achieve. Most nonprofit organizations originate as a vision from an inspired individual or group. There is always the possibility with organizations for the vision to become so diluted that board members and staff see the mission more as a job and not as a means to making a difference in the community.

When you talk to the founders of a nonprofit organization, you can feel the passion they have for the mission of the organization.  As the nonprofit grows and ages, many times the passion of the nonprofit vision is reduced to a generic description of the services the organization offers or a watered down version of a mission statement.  Keeping the vision can become a struggle when the board members and office staff are busy trying to keep the doors of the organization open for business. The organizations that seem to be stagnating or in decline may have lost touch the original vision or worse is operating from independent personal visions.

So, how do you save or re-kindle the vision and passion in your board members and staff?

  • Open every staff and board meeting with a real life story about how their work is having a positive impact on the purpose of the organization.  Keep the nonprofit vision in the fore front of the daily work routine.
  • Board Chairs should have an honest discussion with each board member about the vision of the organization and the role each play in the mission. Create a clear image so that everyone shares the same vision.
  • Use your united vision in all of your staff and board member training session. Teach the vision so staff and board member are excited about the mission and can educate all they come in contact with.
  • Suggest to office staff and board member that they serve as field volunteers periodically so they can experience first hand how the organization is making a difference in the community.  Allow them the chance to “work on the front lines” of nonprofit service.

Nonprofit organizations have a special power to create miracles in the lives of those they serve, but the first step in the act of creation is having a clear mental picture of the end results you want.  The nonprofit vision is seeing the future in what you are doing today. The organizations that are doing well usually have a clear nonprofit vision and from that vision are able to work backwards to create clear goals for the present.  The vision is the “carrot” that makes the day to day challenges easier to work through.  Board members and directors can not afford to allow the nonprofit vision to be lost or they may suffer the same fate as the original gold mine owner.

Bob Holder
DonorExpress Software

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