Earlier this week I was working with some colleagues at an organization I have a great deal of respect for. The organization needs funding. Over a dozen brilliant minds sat around the table talking about different ways to get the money necessary to continue the good work they’ve been doing for a number of years. At times, the conversation got lost in possibilities… ways they could bring in money to sustain the organization.
During this brainstorming activity, I could see a drift away from the values and philosophy the organization had always held. That kind of drift is OK during a discussion that remains theoretical, lingering in the realm of “What if?” It becomes troublesome only when an organization begins to shift away from their values in search of more money. At some point before ideas turn into a plan with deliverables and a timeline, it is worthwhile to ask two simple key questions:
What’s the work we value most? – What are the primary activities that brought you together and keep you going? What is the work that matters?
Who do we help? – Funding is a necessity to keep an organization going, but it’s not the only factor. People need to be invested, too. If you’re helping them in some way, benefiting them, encouraging them, nudging them towards growth and challenging them along the way, they’re more likely to stick around. Whatever activities you decide to pursue in order to get money should still somehow be focused on helping those who are most interested and invested in your success.
Once you get those two questions sorted out, the number of possible activities you can do to pursue funding decreases. And that’s a good thing. What remains after those two questions are answered are the choices that are most aligned with your vision and values. That makes the decision about how to move forward a whole lot easier.
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Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.