January. A word that often curdles my heart. According to Wikipedia, “January (in Latin, Ianuarius) is named after the Latin word for door (ianua), since January is the door to the year and an opening to new beginnings.”
What I love about new beginnings is just that—an ability to recreate yourself, your job, your organization, your relationships—it all. And that can be exciting and wonderful. And daunting. And what I hate is my sense that I should be looking at new ways of doing things, new things to be excited about, new things to learn.
It is not the things themselves that I find unnerving, it is the “should” that I seem to place on it all.
Clearly, this is a personal problem, but I am guessing there are a lot of you out there who feel the same as I.
There is a joy in the same old same old. I know what to expect and I know when I will be excited or frustrated. And mainly I know what succeeds. In short, I know what I know and that can be a comfort. It can also keep you from moving forward to places you don’t know yet and, sometimes, backward to things you have neglected, forgotten about, left by the wayside. Often, those are things that push us to greater heights.
Months ago, my husband sent me this article https://readdle.com/blog/readdle-apps-reach-100M-downloadsabout a company that is very successful—after failing 32 times! They learned 8 lessons—7 of which are so transferrable to the nonprofit sector.
Start with the idea of customers first. As they write: “Always, always focus on your customers. Understanding what they need, not what they say they need…”
For a nonprofit to be successful, focusing on our customers is key. Our customers, of course, are legion. They are our clients, our donors, our volunteers, our staff. Unlike the for-profit sector where the focus too often is on the shareholder and the returns that shareholder gets, our focus is more mission-driven.
The lesson they learned that won’t work for us is the one that says don’t raise money unless you have to. Well, maybe that, too, is transferrable. Nonprofits typically have to. We don’t have products or services that we can sell at a price that will cover overhead and more. Indeed, too many people—including too many of our board members—think that we do not need to have overhead at all. More importantly, we are community organizations, owned not by individuals but by the public at-large. Raising money from our “owners” is simply asking those who care about what we do to invest in ensuring that we can do it and do it well.
As I post this, there are only three days left to January. Three days to un-curdle my heart, walk through that open door and look for new ways to fail and more ways to succeed. I hope you’ll join me.
Janet Levine works to move nonprofits from mired to inspired. She works with you to turn failure into learning opportunities that lead to success, and to build on the successes you have. Learn more at www.janetlevineconsulting.com. While there, sign up for the newsletter and contact Janet for a free, 30-minute consultation (via phone or Zoom).