Is Every Day a Crisis?
Questions for Your Organization– Part 1
In times of economic turmoil, organizers and activists rarely have the time to think about how to take advantage of the opportunities before us and build on our organization’s strengths. It seems like we are putting out fires every day, whether it is personnel turnover, fund-raising requests, a financial squeeze or a pandemic! I have found that particularly during times like these, there are strategies we can use, and steps we can take, that will help us survive and thrive.
Spirit in Action’s Organizational Checklist is designed to help you get quickly to the heart of the matter and find where you can best propose, evaluate and select new strategies to encourage your organization grow stronger. Answering “yes” or “no” to one of the questions does not imply a judgment. It is a guide to provoke thought, conversation and, ultimately, action that is right for you and your group.
What Are We Thinking?
In most organizations, some participants live and breathe the mission and vision. Others aren’t sure how the steps you are taking connect to the vision your group holds. It’s easy to get distracted by new ideas that sound good but may not be appropriate for your group’s resources or capacity. Good work that is focused on just one goal suddenly ends because it is not grounded in a larger vision. Movement-building requires engendering a sense of shared identity and creating a collective vision which emerges only through talking with each other. Take the opportunity to ask each other:
- Do people on all levels of your organization understand your mission and vision?
- Are all activities connected to your mission?
- Do you make decisions based on your mission?
If you can answer “yes” to these questions, great! Most groups I have worked with are somewhere in the middle – “Our activities are USUALLY connected to our mission!” Taking time to review your mission and vision and be sure everyone is on the same page will set you up stronger for 2021.
Dreaming and Scheming
The opportunity in a crisis is to recognize and consciously take advantage of our inherent interconnection. Because we cannot escape from the web of life, we are called to see how we can intentionally weave new threads and strengthen old ones so that we ALL can thrive. As people try out new ways to work together, a vast and yet powerfully aligned collective vision of the future is co-created. Returning periodically to discuss your core values allows everyone to remain “bought in” to your organization.
- Does your organization have a clear and broadly accepted set of core values?
- Do individuals within your organization behave in sync with each other?
- Do you take the time to evaluate your work and celebrate your accomplishments?
We want to hold firm to our commitment of building trust, community and especially fun and celebration. This helps us stand up to an activist culture of going right to work on the issues before building the foundation of core values needed to carry out the work.
Transformational change can happen when we take the time to build a force for healing and change that is multi-issue, broad-based and diverse, a force that begins from a place of deep knowledge, trust in each other and positive vision.
When There is Never Enough
Do some things just never get done? Scarce resources and a difficult fund-raising environment are common to many non-profits. We often take on too much. We over-promise. Evaluating what resources you need to accomplish your plan is an important first step to then finding those resources.
- Does your organization have the right kind of resources: e.g., financial, staff, volunteers, time, technology, etc. to achieve your goals?
- Does your organization have a diverse funding base?
- Do you have a plan to attract new donors that you are implementing?
- Do you see increased gifts from people who have been giving to your organization from the beginning?
- Does your organization have an ongoing capacity to attract sufficient financial resources?
These are the hard questions we need to answer honestly, to avoid what I call, “magical thinking.” That is, if we just believe and hope that things will work out, that the resources will somehow be there, that everyone is working together, it will happen.
We know there will be roadblocks to achieving our vision. Any SWOT analysis tells us that. Identifying the roadblocks, and developing an action plan to circumvent them, keeps us moving forward.