Small Beginnings, Big Possibilities

Small Beginnings, Big Possibilities

Some of us have big Dreams. Dreams of helping people in need. Dreams of making our lives count for something important. Dreams of doing something that needs to be done, that no one else is doing. 

We dream big because we’re natural-born ChangeMakers.

So…why haven’t we gotten started yet? Why is the Dream still just a dream?

Fear of Starting Small

Maybe because the Dream is so big, we think only a big program or project will have the BIG impact we want to have. We don’t have the resources to start Big right now; so anything we start would have to be small. Small and insignificant.

And that’s not what we’re about. Right?

So instead of starting small, we do nothing. We keep dreaming the Dream. And talking about the Dream. And waiting for the far-off “someday” when the Dream comes true.

All because we’re afraid—or maybe too prideful?—to start small.

Great Things Come In Small Packages

Ask any woman who’s ever gotten a beautiful necklace or an engagement ring if great things come in small packages. Yes, they do!

So why not consider starting small with your Dream?

A small beginning doesn’t have to mean an unimportant one. There’s no reason it should lack impact. 

Imagine the look on the faces of a handful of children when you provide them with stylish, well-fitting school clothes and shoes and all the supplies they’ll need for school. Kids who wouldn’t have these without your small program.

Now, imagine how their parents will feel seeing their excited kids ready for school. Not only will their children not feel self-conscious at school, but the parents can now use their scarce resources to buy nutritious food instead of school clothes and supplies.

This wouldn’t require a big project, but what a difference that would make! For the kids and the parents!

Small can have real impact!

Break It Down

Okay, so maybe you’re convinced that you don’t have to wait 10 long years and 1 dark night to pursue your big Dream. You’re okay with starting small.

But how do you do that?

The how-to will vary from one Dream to the other. Each program or project will be different. But to help you get started, here are 4 things to try:

  1. First, identify what you’ll need to make your program successful. Not down to the paperclips; just list the important things. (Volunteers, space, supplies, equipment, etc.)
  2. Consider the resources you have and decide how to use them. (Your time, volunteer time from family and friends, contributions from your savings, your coworkers, and friends, etc.)
  3. Then brainstorm ways to serve just a few people at a time or to serve a smaller geographic area. Work with the resources you have. For example, limit the number of people you serve in a month–to say 100–instead of everyone who comes in the door. Or, if you hope to serve your county, start by serving a small neighborhood in your county.
  4. Explore potential partnerships, especially with organizations that offer other services to the same people you hope to serve. For example, if you offer a support group for people with a particular medical diagnosis, maybe you can partner with the local clinic and the regional hospital. They might provide space and referrals.

As you open your mind to new possibilities and start talking to people in your community, you’ll probably come up with other ideas. Keep exploring options until you’ve crafted a program you can launch sooner rather than later.

Small Start, Big Bonus

You might see the benefit of starting small and maybe even the need to do it. But I wonder if you’ve considered those extra bonuses?

Of course, you’ve probably thought about the appreciation you’ll get from the people you help and the satisfaction of pursuing your Purpose. Of making a real difference in the world.

You might not have considered momentum. Things at rest tend to stay at rest, and things in motion tend to stay in motion. (Thanks, Sir Isaac Newton!) Your small start can energize you, get you off the sofa and into action. And as you stay in motion, you’ll serve more people, make new connections, and see new possibilities.

Plus, your small start can be the seed of new growth. How? Many—if not most—grantmakers prefer to support efforts that have a track record–that are stable and sustainable. They don’t want to be your savior. They want to know you can survive without them.

Starting small will give you a chance to build your program and your organization slowly and to develop a track record of success. Grantmakers and other contributors like that.

And those grants and contributions could be the ticket to your organization’s growth.

Now It’s Your Turn

So how can you start small? I’d love for you to Comment below and let me know your ideas for starting small. Or maybe you have questions. Let’s start a conversation; maybe I can help.
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How YOU Can Write Powerful Grant Proposals

How YOU Can Write Powerful Grant Proposals

Grant proposal writers are in great demand these days. Mission-driven organizations typically survive on contributions and grants, and the competition for those dollars is fierce. So everyone wants a grant writer who can come in and work some magic.

Fund Raising Magic

Grant writers, though, do not come with magic wands to wave over the fundraising operation, and today’s post highlights one of the challenges some of them face: Grant writers are sometimes expected to spin compelling grant proposals out of thin air. Or out of a jumble of bits and pieces.

Imagine being handed a big box of puzzle pieces, all the same color. You can start framing the puzzle by finding all the straight-edges and corners, but what about the middle? There are few visual clues to help you assemble the rest of the puzzle quickly. So you stumble along in trial-and-error fashion until you finally get all the pieces in place.

Sometimes grant writers inherit this kind of challenge.

When a grant writer gets a proposal deadline, but little information to draw from, office life might get a little tough. The frustrated grant writer is “grilling” the staff for information. The already-busy staff is “pouting” about having to dig up that information. And the flustered exec answers the grant writer, “We hired you to figure all that out.”

Solving the Puzzle

So, what’s the solution? A partnership between the grant writer and the staff. The organization’s leaders and staff know the ins and outs of the agency’s programs, and the grant writer needs to know that too.

Trouble is, sometimes all that knowledge is locked in somebody’s head—usually several somebodies, but it’s not written on a page. And since grant writers don’t usually come equipped with mind-reading skills, someone has to harvest all that knowledge.

Today’s video gives you 4 specific steps you and your staff can take to better equip your grant writer for success. I’m not offering you a magic wand or fairy dust; you’ll have to put some work into it. But if you do these things consistently, you’ll lay a foundation for more than fundraising.

Beyond Grant Writing

For example, you’ll be better equipped to recruit board members, make public presentations, and respond to grantmakers’ questions. The organizational knowledge that was once locked in “someone’s” head will be available for your board and staff to use in many ways.

So relax for 4 1/2 minutes and watch the video, Grant Writing: 4 Steps to More Powerful Proposals, and I hope you’ll see why hiring a clever wordsmith is not enough.

The power in your great proposal lies in its ability to tell the grant maker a compelling story based on real information. If this looks like a lot of information to process in 5 minutes, I have a solution for you. Inside Nonprofit Startup Academy, I offer a coaching program called Your First Proposal. I teach you grantwriting basics and coach you through the process of creating your first proposal. You can learn more about that program HERE.

Meanwhile, please drop down to the Comments and let me know YOUR biggest concern about grantwriting. And if you found this article helpful, please share it to your favorite social network!

Watch this video on YouTube.

Change: Get Ready, Stay Ready!

Change: Get Ready, Stay Ready!

We know Change is coming. So why are we caught off guard when it shows up? Maybe we’re too busy to think about it. Or maybe we expect Change to stay away until we’re ready for it. We cruise along with our heads down, hustling to complete that ever-bloated To Do list until we’re smacked in the head by Change.

Pain, Pain, Go Away

Change–whether good or bad–draws us out of our comfort zones. It rips away our cozy routines, and it creates more work. Sometimes it brings painful choices. And sometimes Change brings loss.

Marriage, for example, is Change. When I got married, I gained the love of my life but lost the ability to see my parents every day. They were now many miles away. And I left a job I loved and became another DC-area job hunter.

That Change was our choice, but it still brought joy and pain, loss and gain.

In an organization, of course, Change is far less romantic. (At least it was where I’ve worked.) But organizational Change still brings joy and pain. And being human, we’d rather avoid pain whenever we can.

So we steadfastly ignore the fact that Change may visit us, bringing his unpleasant little minions with him. Then, while we’re enjoying the scenery in the Land of Denial, Change smacks us in the head, knocks us off our feet, and rocks our cozy, predictable worlds.

We can’t ignore Change any longer.

A Fond Farewell To Procrastination

I’m not telling you anything you don’t know already. If you’re over the age of 10, Change has come to visit you at some point in the past. What I AM doing is giving you a reality check and, hopefully, a swift kick in your Decisionmaker Before it’s too late.

another thing added to your list. But I’ve been on the receiving end of emergency calls from nonprofits who failed to prepare for Change until it struck, too.

They didn’t “have time” to plan for Change in advance, either. But then the organization was in crisis and had no choice but to deal with Change. They had to make time. And, trust me, when I tell you that when Change catches you off guard, you might face the pain that naturally comes with Change and the pain of being unprepared.

Still Think There’s No Time?

Nobody can predict and prepare for every possible form of Change, but we can minimize the discomfort and disruption that comes with some predictable events like the loss of a top performer who just got offered the job of a lifetime. Somewhere else.

Or maybe it’s your founder and board chair–the one with major charisma, contagious passion, and a list of high-powered contacts. The founder is retiring and taking her toys with her to Florida.

These aren’t bad events, but you’d better believe your organization will feel the pain if you’re not prepared.

Your Stakeholders Are Depending On You

Don’t wait. You can prepare your organization for Change by planning for events like the ones listed here. Gather your board and staff leaders and start the conversation right away:

  • The exit or absence of key leaders and staff
  • The exit or absence of key board members
  • The opportunity to pursue an important new grant source
  • Loss of a single major funding source
  • The need for organizational layoffs
  • Negative press or organizational scandal

Too Small to Fail?

Did your heart skip a beat when you read that list? Or maybe you think your organization is small enough that you can deal with those things. You may be right.

But if your program is around long enough, some of them WILL come up. Navigating those things smoothly will help your clients or customers, your funders, your community, and any other stakeholders continue their faith in your organization. And you can leverage that faith into practical support.

So What Next?

Talk about how these situations and others might play out in your organization and how your board, staff, clients, and stakeholders might be affected. Create written plans that will help you minimize the damage, take advantage of any opportunities that arise, and settle things down as quickly as possible.

If you’ve followed headlines in the nonprofit sector over the past few years, you know Change often shows up without warning. And while planning won’t stop Change, it can help your organization face the challenge with more intelligence and grace.

By managing Change well, you might just win even more support for your cause. Isn’t that peace of mind worth adding preparation for Change to your To Do list? I sincerely hope so.

Please Comment and share YOUR stories about Change. And if you found this article helpful, please share it to your favorite social media sites!

5 Team Building Lessons You Can Learn From a Marching Band

5 Team Building Lessons You Can Learn From a Marching Band

Today’s post takes a lighthearted look at team building.

Back in the 1990s, we heard a lot about building and managing teams. And we heard phrases like “team player” and “There’s no ‘I’ in team” enough to make us scream.

Or maybe that was just me.

I’ve never seen any magic in the idea of teams. The only reason to create one is, that that’s the best solution for the job, not because it’s “standard operating procedure.” Another mistake is assuming a team will get the job done simply because it exists. If you want to know the meaning of the word frustration, just join an ineffective team!

Or maybe that’s just me again.

Do You Really Need a Team?

If the job requires that two or more people coordinate their efforts over weeks or months, you probably need a team. Otherwise, give the task to someone competent and move on. And while we usually call them committees instead of teams, the same applies to your board of directors.

So, if you need a team and want a team worth having, take a look at this lighthearted little video. It’s football season; so maybe you’ll get a kick out of 5 Team Building Fundamentals You Can Learn From a Marching Band.

View this video on You Tube

More Tips?

Want to share your experience with the highs and lows of teams? I’d love to hear your tales; so please leave me a Comment.

And to do your part to keep the world safe from exasperating teams, please share this post using the social media buttons on the left! 🙂

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