Choose Abundance, intentionally
What do I want folks to get out of my new book, especially now?
In this segment of an interview with Rima Dael, the General Manager of WSHU in Fairfield, Connecticut, Rima asks me how we can choose abundance during such difficult times like those we’ve experienced since early 2020. Choose Abundance, both the book and the concept, are not about glossing over the current circumstances. It is about being intentional about how you and your organization are going to be in the current environment, rather than being at the effect of what is going on around you.
We want to be sure that we are bringing our best selves forward with intention and purpose—especially in difficult times. As humans, we can sometimes get thrown off. It happens to every one of us. We start feeling scarce about our financial resources or our time. We sometimes grow fearful.
Starting a Culture Change
In my book, when I teach about building a Culture of Philanthropy, I use Robert Gass’ Wheel of Change model. Gass suggests that if we want to make culture change, we need to do an authentic assessment of our Behaviors, Structures and our Hearts & Minds. We next need to be intentional about taking actions (Behaviors), building systems (Structures) and choosing the mindset (Hearts & Minds) which correlate to our highest vision.
As you can imagine, this requires being thoughtful and mindful about what is most important in all three domains in Robert Gass’ model. And while you need to pay attention to all three domains, the most overlooked of these is the Hearts & Minds.
Stepping up when challenged
A scarcity mindset is the opposite of a Culture of Philanthropy. It is that small thinking that happens when we are fearful, when we feel we aren’t enough, there isn’t enough, and when we are overwhelmed. Yet, even during these challenging times, and truly, especially during these challenging times, we have an opportunity to focus on what is most important to our agencies, and the community supporting the agency.
The amazing thing is this: If we focus on what is most meaningful and authentic in our agencies—the humans who we care about, the scarcity gets overruled by the generosity of our community.
Think about your constituencies: your staff, your board, your surrounding community and your financial supporters. First get in the mindset of the assets that they bring to your organization. Everyone has things in abundance:
- Your staff has expertise, knowledge and first-hand experience (and stories) of your impact.
- The board has time, passion for your cause and a number of specific assets and skills.
- Your community has caring for your work and perhaps lived experiences of your agency.
- Your donors have passion for your cause and financial resources in abundance.
What would be meaningful to each of them—both as a group, and individually? You cannot take care of everyone. However, if you spend a little time brainstorming, some ideas might come to you and your team that could be very special and impactful.
- For the staff, a random recognition for going beyond the call of duty can be made by going online and finding a fun award certificate. Take the time to make it personal.
- Same for the board. Simple muffins brought in for a meeting can feel special and caring. Or recognition at a board meeting of what each person has brought to the agency can be very meaningful.
- Your community members might like a check-in call, or a note saying that you’re thinking of them. One organization that I talk about in the video, drove around to neighbors and parents and delivered loaves of Challah bread during the pandemic.
- Financial donors like to hear from you as well. For both community members and financial supporters, make it a practice to make a handful of phone calls daily. Even 2 calls a day can be enough. Just make a list and keep it on your desk. When you have a few minutes, make a call and check in with people. Have the conversation be about them. How are they doing? How is their family? If they ask how your organization is doing, be candid. Don’t sugarcoat the challenges, but be intent about this call being a check-in with them. Never ask for money in a call designed to appreciate others.
Stepping up and staying connected
Do these ideas seem over the top? They’re not. It is how countless organizations stayed connected to their staff, their board, their community and their donors. And when down the road it came time to make a request of any kind, those individuals who were most connected to my clients’ agencies were intent on being as generous as possible and gave back. And yes, this means that each of these four constituency groups stepped up in the way they best know how—they shared their abundance.