Houston is a dynamic city, six million + strong and growing at a rapid rate. Statistics show that this market it hot. Jobs, economic opportunity and affordable housing abound. A business friendly environment, by all accounts it appears that Houston will be able to sustain itself into the next decade.
However, the sustainability I write about today is about a small microcosm, 17k strong within this massive megapolis, a reflection of urban sprawl Texas style.
Nonprofit sustainability. What the heck is that?
So glad you asked!
Near and dear to my heart, having been in the trenches of trying to do good for various social ills, nonprofit sustainability has everything to do with PEOPLE, PLACE and PROFIT.
Tackling social problems involves people. Lots of them! PEOPLE who need help, PEOPLE who support the work, PEOPLE who do the work, PEOPLE who are affected in someway because of the work. Since this blog post has to be less than 500 words, here is a tip. Whenever you are working to ameliorate a social issue, involve as many people as you can to get buy in, opinions, suggestions and of course help. And please don’t necessarily look for people who will agree with anything you say. In fact, inclusiveness at its best means the more diverse representation the better.
The place we occupy. Where we live, work and play. Despite Houston’s expansiveness and all of its money – there are pockets of community needs and problems. Deep pockets of needs and problems. Really, really deep. And even though we may think we know what the needs and problems are, we dare not be so presumptuous to move forward with our great idea before doing an assessment of the landscape. At the micro and macro level. Again, ask for feedback. Asking for what other people think, what they perceive to be the issues always makes for great conversation. Dialogue. And by all means before you move forward with opening up a 501C3 check out the competition. Volunteer in their operation, first. I used to be quite rigid in regards to duplication of efforts, but depending on many market factors – even among nonprofits, I believe that competition is good. A for profit would not move forward without checking out the competition or doing market analysis before making any decisions. Nonprofits should not either.
Profit is usually everyone’s favorite topic in regard to organizational sustainability. As a former fundraiser with double digit years experience under my belt in that role, with complete integrity I can write that money doesn’t solve all problems. In fact, I have witnessed how donations can even mask ineffectiveness and inefficiencies. Being a good steward of money is key as organizations that are accountable to and serve the community. Transparency should be a given with everyone who is part of your organization. Fairness is a moral obligation. Paying staff a livable wage should be basic especially, if leaders in the organization are making six figure salaries.
Nonprofit sustainability is complex. The added layers of transparency along with accountability to the community makes it so. One would think that dealing head on with injustices that have plagued society for centuries, we would have figured it out by now.
I have started a six-month nonprofit sustainability series through www.meetup.com. We meet once a month to discuss what this means and how to go about ensuring sustainability. Leaders of organizations need to take baby steps and know without a doubt that despite the gazillion things they do everyday to make their communities strong and healthy that sustainability is possible.