As Writers on the Range reported, four dams on the Klamath River in Oregon and California are scheduled to be removed starting this summer. The process to reach this action has taken 50 years, and the effort has been passed to new generations of activists and stakeholders. Throughout the journey, a sense of belief remained. If the work is worth doing, it is worth enduring the timeline to reach the intended impact.
Trends for 2023 and Beyond
What are the three trends that you believe will have the biggest impact on the social sector in the next year? Looking for a proposed list, check out the Nonprofit AF blog.
What if you travel to the mailbox every day and find it empty? What if you sent out a request for funding as a year-end appeal and have not received a response? What if you asked people to provide their insights in a brief poll on an easy-to-return postcard and none returned? What if you announced you were going out of business, and nobody responded with good wishes or an inquiry about what happened?
It is convenient to think that our efforts do not inspire them just because we have yet to hear from our fans. I spoke with a thru-hiker who completed the Appalachian Trail. He remarked on how almost everyone adopted a trail name. Some were memorable, and one, in particular, stood out. A hiker who was roughly ten days ahead of him would sign in at various huts, peaks, and significant trail junctions. An individual that my friend had never met was an enduring source of inspiration. Each time he read this forerunner’s trail name in a trail log, he was inspired to keep going. He never caught or met this backpacker, but it influenced him to reach Mt. Katahdin in Maine and to share the story years later.
Your work might be creating the draft pulling along a whole peloton of invisible followers, and your endurance keeps them active in the adventure. Even if we cannot track every view, like, ride on, and accolade, we may be the linchpin for an unofficial team.
Start Stacking Rocks
A random boulder on the side of the trail passed by countless trail users has become an outdoor studio. One day, an individual decided to stack some smaller rocks on top of the boulder, and others followed, inspired by the work. Now it is a collection of mini-carins.
We never know when our work will resonate. So launch projects that are authentic to our values and be proud if it is a one-off or creates a movement.
Less Than 60 Seconds
What would you say if you had sixty seconds to share why a good acquaintance should join a cause you are supporting? Would you talk about the benefits of being a supporter, the impact to those who receive the services, the problems solved, or the emotional feeling of serving with purpose? Do you have numbers prepared to demonstrate impact, a story that amplifies the organization’s work, or a pitch about how essential your friend’s role would be in the cause?
In my experience, there is no perfect persuasion. I have been told that for every hour of my service, there is a higher likelihood that another individual will obtain greater health/education/safety/higher earnings. I have been told that every dollar I commit will be doubled or exponentially matched. I have been told that this group needs my talents and is ready to launch. I have been told stories that the storyteller cannot finish because they get choked up. I have been shown charts and graphs that make an essential case for support.
Sometimes I say yes; sometimes, I say no. It may be about the enterprise; it may be about me; it may be about my affinity for the asker or the individuals being served. It may be the level of commitment demonstrated by the board and staff. I have attended meetings thinking I am committed to saying yes, and the request to enroll significantly concerned me. I have attended meetings as a courtesy with no intention of signing up and found myself completely embedded in the work that matters.
Sixty seconds and no certainty that our request to join the cause will resonate. But if we believe, we ask and are comfortable with the results. What if we ask authentically and celebrate an convincing answer?
What are keystone indicators that track the health of your ecosystem? In nature, the well-being of certain species has a high correlation to the overall ecosystems vitality.
What keystone barometer help us track the viability of our enterprise? Is it a key set of KPIs. A high net promoter score among donors and board members? The number of acres conserved and dollars raised?
Or is it the quality of the insights and guidance that people provide to set us up for success?
How might we be more insightful in tracking the health of our cause? How might we measure what matters?
What Problems Did You Solve in 2022
We need a prompt to share our successes. It is human nature to focus on the problems that remain in front of us and continue to capture our focus.
What is your list of problems solved in 2022?
Variables and Inputs
Riding a bike across a swinging cable bridge creates movement on the deck, amplified by the inputs from the rider. Add more cyclists to the same bridge span, and the journey gets more energetic. Navigating the span becomes increasingly more challenging (and exhilarating) with more inputs.
For others, leaping from a bridge attached to a bungee cord is a thrill, and it provides the rush of adventure and a state of free fall that is not customary to the human lifecycle. There are fewer inputs for a bungee jumper, and removing constraints makes it remarkable.
The impact of variables and inputs creates different journeys and feedback. How might we amplify our journey by seeking higher-quality inputs? Let’s be clear about which variables we hope to leverage.
Journey and/or Destination?
Two mindsets, journey and destination, one focuses on the landscape we inhabit, and the second focuses on the finish line.
Both are essential perspectives to maintain. Being hyper-focused on the destination might lead us off a cliff, into a swamp, or miss the spectacular view corridors. Enveloped in the journey mindset, we might spend the night outside without proper gear since we failed to assess the time required to reach the shelter.
As we prepare to navigate a new year, consider the mindsets we wish to assume as we venture into 2023. A new year is a season of goal setting; however, goals without purpose and context often leave us feeling empty. How might we embrace the journey while making measurable progress toward a destination that matters? How might we know more tomorrow than we do today because the route we traveled revealed insights when we seek out destinations that are not easy to reach?
Sometimes serendipity creates the best moments. I asked for a photo of my son during a sunset hike in the local foothills and he delivered an unconventional response. I will remember this photo more than many other family sunset moments because it is unique. A one of a kind.
We are often remembered for what makes us unique because it is easier to categorize the memory’s of those who know us. We can create the frame to capture our individual approach or we can try to hide in the background. It is a choice.