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:
- 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.)
- 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.)
- 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.
- 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.
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!