Sunday, June 22, 2008

Staying True

I have been involved with a small not-for-profit organization, HOPE Ministries, for the past 10 years or so. As with most small non-profits, financial stability is extremely hard to achieve, especially if the organization is not “institutionally” supported by some larger national group, which HOPE is not. So, there is a tendency to “chase the money”.

What I mean by this is to attempt to twist HOPE’s vision and mission, which, by the way, is to assist homeless or at-risk for homeless families in attaining self-sufficiency, to fit into a particular grant program’s parameters. The need for money to continue the mission sometimes clouds the clarity of the mission itself. Fortunately, so far, we have been able to fight the urge and remain true to our purpose…but it is very hard. If there is a grant available that, by a stretch, HOPE’s mission “fits”, a lively discussion is likely to be had.

For-profit businesses sometime have the same issue.

This week an old friend, maybe I shouldn’t say “old” but a longtime friend, called and set up an appointment to drop by and talk to me about some “CPA work”. Ray had retired from one of the local petrochemical facilities and was now being courted as a consultant. Of course, he had heard lots of “cocktail party talk” about the tax and business advantages of operating his own business through some type of legal entity. After a couple of hours of talking through the details 2 things became very apparent to both of us: Ray did not want to go through the “headache” of setting up and running a “real” business (we discussed other ways to “skin that cat”) and Ray’s needs were not a good fit for our firm’s vision of deep, long-term relationships with business owners.

At the end of the meeting Ray had gotten what he needed, a direction, and I, hopefully, brought some real value to him, even though it was not exactly what either of us expected.

It would have been easy to “chase the money” with Ray. We could have talked for hours on end about how he could save a few bucks by setting up a business, etc. But he did not want that. He wanted freedom from details…not more of them. As for our firm…what did we gain?….how about a new advocate that now understands our vision, not working on a project that is not within our mission, and a sense of satisfaction that you brought real value and peace of mind to our “customer”?

The reward for staying true is simply priceless!

1 comment:

Renee Craft said...

Tim, it sounds like you really "get" the challenge facing HOPE Ministries and other nonprofit organizations: avoiding "mission drift", as it's known in the nonprofit sector, while continuing to find creative new ways to infuse our dwindling revenue streams. And as HOPE Ministries' executive director, I am gratified. By the way, I had no idea you'd be writing about HOPE on your blog, but I'm sure glad you did! It gives me a chance to shamelessly plug our website and encourage others to check us out at www.hopeministriesbr.org. Thanks again for what you do for HOPE and for your customers like Ray. I know they benefit from your guidance and enthusiasm as much as HOPE does.

Renee Craft,
Executive Director
HOPE Ministries