pinit fg en rect gray 20 Give up your nonprofit poverty mentality

Today is Ash Wednesday which means it’s the start of the Lenten season. Whether you celebrate Lent or not, now is a good time to think about something you can afford to give up in your nonprofit – your poverty mindset.

Most nonprofit organizations were started on a shoestring because someone wanted to help people or change a situation. A vision was cast and the adventure began. Unfortunately, the harsh reality of funding crept up fast, and instead of thinking about how to raise needed funds, founders learn to work within what they have.

It’s like trying to build a house and choosing the manual saw to cut the wood while the power saw sits unused. You’re limited in what you can get done, and everything will take much longer than it needs to.

Way too many nonprofit leaders and staff think small. They look at a book or a training program and say “we can’t afford that.” How about thinking about options and possibilities instead? What if you simply insert the word ‘how?’ Try saying “How can we afford this?” and then brainstorm a list of ways. There are always options.

Poverty mindset stunts a nonprofit’s growth. Adding or expanding programs is tough when you aren’t willing to think big. Think of a food pantry for example. Let’s say they’re serving 50 families a week and they’re satisfied with that. What if we start thinking about the need? How many families are not being served? How many families would the pantry need to serve to totally meet the need? Once the number is identified, fundraising goals should be based on it.

This kind of thinking is riddled with doubt, fear, and negative beliefs. It’s like a gray cloud of gloom that follows you around and keeps you from really moving forward in your organization. It keeps you stuck right where you are in terms of organizational growth.

So how about giving up the poverty mindset and small thinking for the next 40 days and see what happens?

  1. This is such an important point, and reminds me of Kay Grace’s “Retire the Tin Cup” combined with the power of thinking BIG. I find that many nonprofits are so mired in the weeds they just can’t come up for air to see the light. And when they think about fundraising, they think of begging. No, no, no. Fundraising is all about enabling people to act on their deepest values. We show them the way. It’s uplifting.

    Nice blog!

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