Oxygen: a colorless and odorless gas that people need to breathe.
For nonprofits, this essential element comes in the form of engaged individuals.
Without a base of truly passionate and committed individual supporters, no nonprofit organization will ever be fully sustainable.
I believe that nonprofits exist at the behest of the community. That 501c3 tax exempt status is not a right, it’s a privilege. Way back when each nonprofit got started, someone said: we need that service in our community so much that we as individuals are going to pay more taxes so that organizations providing those vital services don’t have to pay taxes.
As soon as a nonprofit organization forgets that fact and stops focusing intentionally on engaging the individuals in their community at whose behest they serve, they have moved off the path of long-term sustainability.
It’s not about the money. It’s about the engagement of those individuals in the real work of the organization.
It’s about having a steady stream of individuals who could genuinely move you to tears in two minutes with an authentic, compelling story or personal experience of why your work is needed.
Like the community organizer at one of our advocacy organizations who knew just the three questions to ask me to take me back to a time in my own life when I had witnessed or experienced injustice and had failed to take action.
It’s about the authentic, continually “refreshed” engagement of individuals who breathe so much life into your organization that, even if they never personally need your services, they are passionate about that need being met in the community.
It’s about being able to leave your organization knowing that dedicated people are looking after it wisely, growing it appropriately, and above all, holding the organization true to its main purpose: fulfilling its overarching mission.