Starting a non-profit (or anything) can be a challenge. Difficulties surround us all the time; it never ends. This is part of leading, launching and growing an organization. Whether it’s a business, church or non-profit — we all face the same challenges.
You must be ready to face the day to day obstacles, or you will fail miserably.
Success Causes Failure
There are many reason we fall, but I want to focus on one key reason – success.
Yes, that is right. Success can cause you to fail. Every organization must be balanced. You have to create momentum (through sales, by gathering people, raising money), create systems to sustain the momentum, and ensure your profit margins or finances are healthy.
Here is where the battle begins: in the beginning, you have to pick one over the others.
In other words, you can’t be amazing at all three right away. Usually, organizations do not have enough cash to hire the right people to be amazing all at once.
I hate it, but it is true This is why most organizations do not make it past year three, four or five.
So Many Ways to Fail
Some organizations grow fast and then falter. They are able to sell and create amazing momentum, but they lack systems and/or profits to sustain themselves long term.
Sell, sell, sell is the mantra of these kinds of companies. But, when it all comes crashing down, because success creates chaos and it takes goods systems to organize the chaos, but the system is lacking… well, you get the point.
Some organizations are highly detailed and organized, but they cannot create the momentum they need. So, they run out of cash or stall and hit a plateau. The leader (CEO, ED, Pastor) is constantly in an office creating reports, replying to emails, stuck in meetings, or planning for the short-term. They are doing everything except innovating for the future and selling in the present. They either die off or get stuck in a never ending world of being average.
They have amazing strategic plans and detailed reporting but not enough customers and profits to survive.
Some organizations have great momentum, lots of users, and folks love their products. But, they have low to zero profit margins. Guess what: it all comes crashing down. Success kills them because the momentum requires more money. Every time they succeed it really means they LOSE money, because success did not lead to margins. Instead, it led to more work, which requires more staff and better systems and more cash.
Yes, success led to failure.
The leader here refuses to slow down and process reality. They do not make the key organizational adjustments that are required for long term sustainability. And then, they give up due to frustration, exhaustion and lack of funds.
Sadly, these kinds of organizations have fans who love them and they mourn their loss. This tragedy happens far too often.
How to Identify where you stand
So here is the thing – you cannot be HORRIBLE at all three simultaneously. If you do, you are done.
You also can’t be average at one and horrible at the other two. This means a slow death.
If you are average at two and horrible at one, you will plateau and be stuck.
If you are great at one and average at two, you will grow.
If you are great at two and average at one, you will experience high-growth.
If you are great at all three, you will experience exponential growth and long term success.
We Picked One
Help One Now decided that we would be great at one and average at two in the first few years. We were committed to story and implementation of our international projects. We did everything possible to make this happen. This was our core. Tell a story and make the impact, and repeat.
We have always committed to be amazing at ALL three. We just had to be patient and allow time, resources and maturity to catch up.
Here’s what I mean:
1) We are committed to a high-growth model. We want to leave a mark and make an impact.
2) We are committed (but don’t have the funds–YET) to creating epic systems that we can use to be organized, effective and efficient. We are OKAY right now. In some areas, we STINK. It is horrible, to be honest. This is what keeps me up at night.
3) Sustainability: We’re deeply committed to ensuring everything we do creates margin and resources for our organization. (This is how we will be great at one and two.) In the past, we chose to lose money on some of our initiatives. For example, we were losing money on our child sponsorship program. We had to make a change and raise the price from $35 to $40. It has made a huge difference. Also, we will charge more for our mission trips in the future. It will not too much, but enough to create financial margin.
Learning to live in the tension
As you launch your organization, you have to commit to be good in all three areas. It will take 3-5 years to create the necessary balance for most organizations. It is okay; you must be patient. In due time, you can work out the kinks.
But, communicate to your tribe. Let them know that you know what you can do well and what you do poorly. Make sense? Do not hide or ignore. I have told multiple investors and partners that we are bad in some key areas and I asked for their patience, and they love it. Why, because it makes us human and it also creates a way for your tribe to give back and add value.
They almost always understand. If they do not, their expectations are too high.
Of course, all this to say that none of us will ever be perfect. But, we all can launch our dreams into the world, find success and then sustain our success long term by becoming good or great at all three areas.
Now… go do it. I’m rooting for you!