Sunday, October 21, 2012

One Year Later...

Yep, life sure does get in the way! It's been a whole year since the non-profit opened and lessons are a plenty! So lets just get started shall we? I'll start with just three today:

1. There Really Is No I in TEAM! GASP!!! - Our non profit did not get here alone! It took the dreams, passion, and hard work of many in order to get us to where we are today. (Which in the grand scheme of things isn't really all that far! More on this later in the week.) We created a simple and clear mission that people in our community could relate to and easily support. And support they have! Families have come together to help us keep our doors open, help us keep the place clean and neat, donated supplies, helped us organize events and activities, and allowed us to pay the rent when things were tight. We will just call them...VOLUNTEERS!! We don't pay them to do this, they do this because they are invested in our mission, and they truly care about what we are trying to do in our community. It is so important that this type of support continues throughout the life of a non profit because if you lose volunteers, you lose support, you lose everything. Period!

2. Sometime There Are Hard Choices - Non profit life isn't always easy. As a founder, there are difficult choices made every day. Things that may seem simple to some can be excruciatingly difficult to the non profit founder or director. Take for example the simple idea of hours of operation for you non profit. Most businesses are 9-5 Monday thru Friday. But what if you are the only one to run the facility, and you have a family, and perhaps other responsibilities outside of the non profit world? (You need a life right?) Your schedule in this case will probably revolve around YOUR life, not the lives of the community you are trying to serve right? But is that the right decision? Will the general public understand? Will this cause some in the community to not be able to take advantage of the services offered by your organization? It could. This is truly something to take into consideration. There is a reason they say "if you want to get rich, don't go into non profit business" right? It takes a HUGE amount of selflessness to start one, and even more of your time and effort to run one. It may be a better solution to find someone else to run your organization. Someone who can afford to be there during hours that best fit your community needs. It's not about you in the end is it? 

Which brings me to my last lesson for today:

3. The Mission Must Come First!!! - Why have you started your non profit? Who are you trying to help, or what areas are you trying to serve? Whatever the mission, you must make it the main focus of all decisions made regarding the organization and the way it is run if you want to stay true to that mission. People are watching!! They take notice of EVERYTHING you do when you are running a non profit. Think about it. In our world today, how many organizations can you truly trust anymore? People take advantage all the time. If you are going to become invested in an organization, you want to know they can be trusted, that they are honestly doing what they say they strive to do! You want to make sure they follow the mission they created and that they are following through with the rules and regulations they create. If they are not, then what does that say about that organization? The mission of an organization is it's foundation! It should tell you what the organization is all about and what they are passionate about. The actions of it's people should follow that mission throughout it's existence! 

There are many more lessons of course, and I could go on just about these three for days! However, I think I will just leave it at this for now. And stay tuned. This is just the tip of the iceberg! This is a journey I want to share because we have done so much right, and oh so much more wrong!!! And there should be someone out there willing to tell it like it is! And that's what I plan to do!

Monday, March 12, 2012

WOW! It Happens So Fast!!!

It's been way too long. And oddly enough, my last sentence from my last post came true: "...when it all falls into place" because it all did fall into place. And in lightening speed!!!!!

What are you talking about?? That's what you are saying right? Because it's been SO long that you probably have no idea what I am referring to. (Life got in the way of writing!) But let me tell you...My non profit found a place to start, with no start up costs, no money in the bank, just a wing and a prayer! And we are still open 6 months later! Amazing is just not even the word. Awesome, maybe. Crazy!? Yes, that's it.

So, let's talk lessons:

1. It really is all in who you know - My nonprofit had been looking and looking for ways to find a building but with no success. No one wants to take a chance on a business with no money in the bank, let alone one that is a nonprofit. (Our board agreed to never take a loan) Have you seen the number of nonprofits closing their doors lately? Of the more than 1.5 Billion charities in the U.S. it's a lot I tell you! (that number was taken from the National Center for Charitable Statistics by the way) I don't have the actual figure right now, but there were organizations closing shop left and right here where I live and it was scary watching it while trying to get one started at the same time.

So how did it happen for us? Our nonprofit happened to be called one day by a very new friend who had an eye on supporting what we were doing in some way non-money related. She was renting a small space for a small amount of money for a co-op and could not afford to stay anymore due to families leaving. Being that the place was perfect for a small start up for our cause, she called us asking if we would be interested in the spot. We were in it within two weeks thanks to her ability to put her personal defeat aside and ability to focus on a possible success for others first. Selfless! Love it. Love her. It just happened that she thought of us, and so it just happened to work out for us. But only because we knew the right person at the right time.

2. Never be afraid to think out of the box - The place we got into is small, and does not fit the entire vision we have. No matter though, we are well practiced in the art of creativity and flexibility! (No, we are not yogis, ninjas, or show girls) We got in and opened up our doors within the two weeks, making sure to never look back or question too much what we were doing. We just went full force ahead! It was too scary to think about it if we stopped to do so, so we decided not to. We basically looked at what we were given and made it work for as much as we could with the idea of looking back later and making adjustments as we went. And that seemed to work really well. Those we are helping in the community are super excited and loving what we are doing. We were really out of the box type thinkers anyway, so we were able to adapt to our situation well without much trouble.

Ah! But trouble always comes. And lessons are always learned. Hey, maybe I should title my blog something about daily life lessons!? Hmm...

Anyway, overall we are excited to be where we are and there are so many thing I can share about what we have done right and oh so wrong. So, obviously that will be where we are headed as I finally get back into blogging on a regular basis. Feel free to come back and check out the roller coaster ride of nonprofit world!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

When Energy is Low

This month seems to be one where non-profit energy is very low with those on our board. A proposal we put in on a building was just recently declined, and so morale is down and all the hard work seems as though it was for not. So, was it?

Let's think this through a moment. In all honesty we had never put in a proposal before. And, to continue the honesty, it took us a while to get one put together correctly as we had to create it, send it for review and make changes, send it for more review and edit again to make sure it had all the correct and necessary information. Next, we had to get the proposal printed according to the specifics requested, and get it turned in on time. Let's also mention here that we only had two weeks to get everything done. I would say we gained some valuable experience here because we did get everything done on time, and it turned out to be one very well put together proposal even if it wasn't accepted.

Although morale is low right now, I would say all of the hard work was totally worth it, and perhaps that is what our group needs to focus on. This experience has allowed us the ability to know what to expect for the next time, and there will be a next time. So, while energy is low, we must stay focused and move forward. Brush off the rejection and look forward to that one moment when it all falls into place. It's going to happen. The hard part is not knowing when.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Funny Think About Non-Profits...

They move so very slowly!

So what have we accomplished in all this time? Well, we have received many donated items, and donations to keep our donated items in storage. (Be thankful for the little things in life.) And we have made contact with some very influential people within the community, including a meeting with the Governor and other higher ups. The outcome? Well, that's a tough one to answer really.

I am told it takes a good 5 years to figure out if you will be a successful non-profit. This is because running a non-profit is just like running a business, only you have a clear understanding that you will never make any money doing so. No getting rich here, just working hard to make a difference in the world. And when I say working hard, I mean working your butt off.

This journey has been long and full of more ups and downs than the longest roller coaster. Yet somehow among the lowest of the lows we have managed to keep moving forward. And the biggest lesson we have learned is it's all in who you know. Talk to the right people at the right time and you may find information on more people to talk to with real decision making power. However, the decisions they make may not be what you wanted to hear. All things come in due time though.

It comes down to a balance of taking the good with the bad, or the other way around depending on the situation at hand. New ideas take time to grow and need support like the most fragile flower. Word of mouth is paramount to your success so taking the time to talk to everyone you know and haven't met yet is priority. And it takes time for trust and sometimes understanding to build to the point of actual support. But it will come in time.

So, stay focused and keep beating the pavement and getting the word out there on what your goals and dreams are for your non-profit. In due time, events will happen that will change your world.

As to my non-profit, well, I'll keep you posted...

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Moving Forward!

The biggest obstacle some people struggle with in life is fear. Fear of failure, fear of death, fear of bugs, fear of people, fear of rejection, fear of success. Success? Yes, I said fear of success. Success can be scary! If you want to do something big, (like start a non-profit??) and you succeed, life can get complicated and full of responsibility. For some this reality can cause one to stop right were he or she is on the journey and keep progress from happening. and we all know progress leads to success, well, sometimes.

But progress does not just happen. One must get up and make things happen.

This is what I have been dealing with in my life in regard to my non-profit. The entire process had been kind of scary. But not as scary as it is about to get. We have kicked off a building campaign to raise money for a rental facility and therefore things are about to get wild and crazy and, well, scary!! Why? Because we just might succeed, and if that happens, life will get busy and there will be much more responsibility to deal with and some of it may be complicated. Could we fail? Of course that could happen! And failure is scary!!

And I could just let fear take control and I could sit around and wait for things to happen. It is so much safer after all. But instead I have decided to stand up, take a deep breath, and move. I have made a conscious decision to ignore the fear and focus instead on the destination I am trying to get to. Because in the end, I would rather say I moved forward and gave it everything I had instead of one day waking up and wondering what could have been had I just gotten up and moved forward.

I will continue to share my journey, and I will continue to stay focused on the destination while trying my best to enjoy the ride. I hope you do the same.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Enjoying the Ride

There's just no other way to describe starting and running a non-profit other than saying it's like a roller coaster ride. There are ups and downs, and all-arounds. Right now my non profit is on an up. We were just accepted into a contest for a rather large grant. If we win, we could get our building. If we lose, at least we got the word out and gave it our all. In the meantime, we move forward and continue the funding search, and working towards supporting our mission.

If you feel led to do so, please take a moment to vote for us once a day through the month of October.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Funding Your Non-Profit

So, part of what we do in non-profit world these days is try to find funding. After all, you can't run a non-profit on volunteer service alone, there are costs involved. For example, our specific non-profit needs a building, and to maintain a building we need money. So, we are trying to find ways to raise money for our building.

Right now, we are trying to specifically find grant money. It's not an easy task really. First of all, after figuring out specifically what you need the money for, you have to find available grants and foundations giving away money for that specific area you need it for. That isn't too bad because there really are a lot of grants out there. But the hard part is doing the research to find out how much these foundations have given away in the past, and what organizations they gave it to. What types of programs do they support and does your non-profit fit with their vision or agenda? Do you qualify to apply? Are there specific things they want to know? Specific projects they will not fund? Do they have a dead line for their application?

The work is time consuming to say the least but doable. (Probably why most people hire a qualified and experienced grant writer to do it for them when they can afford it.) Next, after finding out if you qualify to even apply, you have to put together your request letter, and eventually an actual proposal. And they have to be just perfect and on time or you miss the opportunity. Finally, after all of your hard work, it's the waiting game. And in the end, you still may not get your funding. It's a crazy world this fundraising is. But these are the hoops non-profits are made to jump through in order to find money, and support.

There are other ways out there to obtain funding as well. As of late, there have been a bunch of places doing contest for funding, including our government. My non-profit does not go after government funding, but we did find a great contest to enter through Kohl's. (see that button up on the right hand side?) They are giving away grants to the top 20 educational institutions that get the most votes. So we entered and now we have to try to get as many votes as we can to qualify for the grant money we need. With the thousands who have no doubt entered this contest, this is probably a shot in the dark, but a shot we are willing to go after. After all, it has been a great way for us to get the word out on our non-profit. And it has been a great learning experience for all of us involved. There are other plans in the works still, but for a while, we will concentrate on trying to get in on the top 20 list for this grant. And if we won the money? Well, like I said above, we need a building. So, our money would go to getting us into a building and building it out to fit our needs.

By the way, if you have a moment and care to help us out, click on the link up there and share your votes. It would be so appreciated. :)

Another important note to share here on funding is you should never put all of your eggs into one basket. You cannot find a money source, then rely on that same source of money to keep you afloat. You must branch out and diversify your fundraising. You never know what may happen to funding. Especially in an economy such as our today. Here today, gone tomorrow you know. So, make sure you spread your focus over many areas of funding, not just one. Do fundraisers, find many supporters, go after many grants, put together some type of merchandise like t-shirts and stickers to help raise money, go to the local ice cream shop. Ice cream shop? Yep, sometimes they will do a one day event where they donate a percentage of each sale to your organization. Other food businesses will do it too. Pizza places, the mom and pop shops. These are all great ways to raise funding. Yes, the big money is in the grants and other supporters of large corporations and foundations, but remember to keep going after the smaller funds too. Every penny counts! And in the end there is nothing to lose by trying. After all, isn't your non-profit, our mission and vision, worth it?