Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Your Nonprofit as a Wind-up Toy

I SUPPOSE THIS POST MIGHT HAVE SOMETHING TO DO with the gift-giving time of year, or perhaps it's the phone conversation I just had that touched upon the phases of organizational growth. I don't know, but I'm going to put the two together for today's post and see what I can make of it.

I actually want to concentrate on the founding stage of a nonprofit -- those early, heady years of excitement and energy fueled by a gratifying sense that one is creating something important and needed. I got to thinking about organization founders: community activists, groups of friends, lone rangers -- passionate people, all. They have a vision and often the power to make that vision reality. They utilize their networks to accomplish their vision. And they may easily embrace others into their vision or they may not.

The most enlightened founders know that organizations are living, breathing, dynamic things, with changing leadership and funding needs. These founders understand that someday they will need to let their organizations go. Here comes the toy analogy: Founders have the wonderful job of winding the organization up and setting it on the floor. But they, along with their boards and staff, also have an obligation to make sure the organization doesn't dissipate its energy by running all over the place and getting stuck under the couch.

We can guide the course of organizations just as we can a wind-up toy and we can do it by establishing pathways or boundaries with planning, measuring and evaluating accomplishment, and communicating objectives, success and failure.

I think the wind-up toy might be a pretty good analogy, because most organizations do require a re-wind every so often as they progress along their paths. That's another lesson for another day, I suppose, for founders and young organizations.

Photo: watch him go from girlhula


Anonymous said...

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Anne W. Ackerson said...

I'm glad you found my blog and thanks so much for commenting!! I welcome reader input!