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2008 February

Now that’s what I call leaving a legacy

The Pride Foundation announced yesterday that former donor and Microsoft founder Ric Weiland bequeathed $65 million to the Pride Foundation and other GLBT groups when he died just over a year ago. A front page Seattle Times article yesterday reported the details.

Now in the interest of full disclosure I should tell you that I was on the board of the Pride Foundation for four years. I had a great time, I love the organization and still support them. But I can say with some confidence that I would have some of the same thoughts about this amazing news even if I hadn’t been involved with the organization.

What impressed me, beyond the obvious:

  • The Pride Foundation handled Ric’s bequest with tremendous grace and skill. Receiving news of a gift this size can put any organization into a tailspin. There are a million questions to be answered, limitless possibilities open up threatening to pull you off-mission. Pride has stayed focused and intentional in their planning efforts and communications with the community.
  • For Pride, another key concern is that current donors will think their gifts are no longer needed. Fundraising efforts often serve as an important community-building strategy, and this is especially so in this case. As a donor, I received a thoughtful letter in advance of Sunday’s Seattle Times article with details about the bequest and FAQ, which addressed this very topic quite well.

I will continue to support this great organization, even though they now have more money than they ever dreamed. Not because they need it, but because I need them – their ability to inspire, motivate and create meaningful change has a real impact on my life and many others’.

Your greatest asset: the power to inspire

I’ve been talking to colleagues lately about the “trance of scarcity” we sometimes see in the social sector. You know, when you’re at an event and people start complaining about there not being enough money, time, political capital, and on and on until you wonder why they go to work in the morning.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t lack sympathy for the constraints nonprofits face. In fact, I probably would get a lot less work were it not for the challenges of fundraising, attracting and retaining skilled staff, staying focused on mission, etc. And when your mission is to solve a seemingly intractable problem like homelessness or global warming or child abuse, its tough not to get pessimistic.

In Good to Great and the Social Sectors, Jim Collins says that one of the greatest resources in the social sector is the ability to offer people a sense of meaning and connection. When we lament about what there’s not enough of, we’re not just bumming ourselves out – we’re depriving potential donors, volunteers and other supporters of the opportunity to join us in making a difference.

So, I would posit that not only is it a heck of a lot more fun, as a leader with a mission its actually your responsibility to stay inspired and inspiring.

Some quick tips to get your perspective back:

  • Focus on three things you are grateful for. Picture a volunteer, co-worker or donor you really appreciate, for example, and really let yourself feel how gratitude can expand your sense of what’s possible.
  • Take a break! A real break – go away for the weekend, or better yet two or three weeks to somewhere beautiful with lots of trees, water and/or mountains. Shouldn’t be too hard in the pacific NW, and doesn’t have to be expensive either.
  • Ask a friend or colleague to remind you of what you have accomplished. I bet there’s a long list, and that you’ve achieved these feats despite the same odds that now have you trembling in that scarcity trance.

Feel better? I thought you would. And I bet you’ll find it a lot easier to tackle that enormous to-do list now, too!

Why I don’t like the term “non profit”

  • It starts with a negative
  • It refers to tax status as opposed to purpose
  • It implies penury
  • It doesn’t include businesses that were founded with a social mission, which are increasingly important in our efforts to create meaningful and sustainable change on a global scale
  • It doesn’t include government agencies with a focused mission, which are also important to social change
  • It’s just plain old school

For a while now I’ve been struggling with finding language to describe people and organizations dedicated to social, environmental or spiritual change. As I wrote my webpage, which is dedicated to helping these people and organizations thrive, I kept bumping my head against this absence of vocabulary and promised myself to start a conversation here on TripTych to generate new language for this exciting development in our society.

I see a powerful, emerging movement that blurs the lines between traditional nonprofits, grassroots organizations, political movements, government agencies and socially-oriented businesses. What shall we call this movement?

Here are some ideas I’ve heard, but none are perfect, of course. If you have others you like, please share them!