By Mel and Pearl Shaw of Saad&Shaw
It’s time to get out and about again. Back to seeing people in person. Time for morning meetings over coffee, and evenings with nonprofit dinners and galas. It’s the return of breakfasts and luncheons that introduce new ideas, development projects, and “movers and shakers.” Even those of us who need to continue to “play it safe” can “reenter” community life. We can wear a mask, gather outdoors, and there’s always the old-fashioned phone and the newly popular zoom.
As you reengage, consider opportunities outside of your comfort zone and outside the world of your nonprofit or university. Look for ways to mix it up, pollinate ideas, break down barriers, and gain a deeper understanding of what’s going on with people who are not “like us.” Engage with people who may hold different ideas, focus on different solutions, or simply work in a different geographic area. Its all about getting out of our bubble so we can see more clearly, work more effectively, and engage more fully.
This is important for us as individuals, and as members of the nonprofit community. No one of us alone can “change the world” but together we can collaborate and adapt our work, so we integrate with the work of others. We can learn from innovators, and also from those who try things that don’t work out as expected.
Share your knowledge and expertise. Encourage staff members and administrators to seek out board service with other organizations. The purpose of this is for them to share a specific expertise that can help another organization grow and make decisions. Encourage members of your nonprofit to join a civic or social organization, and to attend key government events, community hearings and forums. You want your team participating in the life of your community and sharing what they are learning with their team members.
What’s in it for you? Dedicating time to engaging with others can provide you with an indication of whether or not your organization is headed in the right direction, and what it means to be a meaningful contributor in your community or region. You get a better feel for where the community is headed and what is important. You increase your awareness of who the “on the ground” stakeholders are, and who is an emerging leader. We believe nonprofits should include community participation as part of their long-term strategy. This is especially true for academic institutions. Supporting the work of other nonprofits shows that you are not just willing to receive – but that you too are a giver. One small thing to remember: when members of your nonprofit or university are volunteering or participating in community events, they should introduce themselves as part of your nonprofit. If they don’t do this, it is hard for others to know that your nonprofit is engaged.
Finally, each of us has a bubble – it’s part of being human. We’re just encouraging a complimentary part of humanity – getting out of your bubble. You can do it: we promise, your world will expand.