WHAT I BELIEVE: My Philanthropic Mission Statement
Philanthropy is about two missions: yours and the organization's. When those missions intersect, you have a beautiful marriage. This is not to say that you cannot be successful at an organization when you do not adopt their mission as your own. It is possible and I have seen it work, but it brings me to a question: Why would you work there? Why work for a non-profit organization if you cannot buy into the mission? If it is just a job, you can probably make more working for a corporation. If it is just a job, you could get better benefits elsewhere.
To achieve that top level of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs -- transcendence, personal growth and self-actualization -- you need to first believe in the work of the organization.
I started my career working in an industry that I thought I wanted to spend the rest of my life in: sports communications. It turns out that I cannot spend 70 hours per week working for coaches I did not like or sports I was indifferent towards. I moved on to corporate marketing, thinking that my transferable skills could flourish in a well-funded environment that supported creativity. I was wrong. It turns out that I became resentful of the fact that all of my hard work meant one thing: our CEO would get richer.
Every non-profit organization that I have volunteered with or worked for share a similar quality: a mission that I can believe in. Every company has a mission statement, but for a constituent-driven (not customer-) organization, that sentence is everything. It is the reason why individuals, companies and foundations write checks, why volunteers donate their time, why students apply, and why employees show up to work each day.
So, what do I believe?
- I believe that if every action of your day is not mission focused, then you have wasted your time.
- I believe that the 50 sheets of misprinted papers that I just tossed in the blue bin equals about $4 worth of donations. It was money that someone worked hard to earn so that they could donate it. Think twice. Print once.
- I believe that service and stewardship are behaviors you adopt from watching others around you. If your parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles gave/give, you will too.
- I believe in the tenets of Donor Centered Fundraising by Penelope Burk.
- I believe that humans are the greatest resource of any organization. All the donations in the world are meaningless unless you have quality people at the top, middle and bottom of your organization.
- I believe that philanthropy is a virtue you learn. It's not merely writing a check to a cause. It's a frame of mind that revolves around the belief that you can make the world, or even your corner of it, a better place.
- I believe that lunch, not breakfast, is the most important meal of the day. When was the last major decision you made over a bowl of cereal?
- I believe that taking a measured risk to advance the mission and serve your constituency is better than standing pat.
- I believe that there is nothing worse than someone having no opinion about your organization. Love us. Hate us. At least you know us. Indifference leads to inaction, and inaction leads to the liquidation of assets.