Every business is different. Their logic models, the business strategy, size, shape, and color. Each is different to address every need and demand in our community. It’s pretty miraculous when you think about it. A group of people, coming together to address a need in the community is a feat in itself, but rarely will you find what lurks behind the closed doors of meetings and partnerships, or even well beyond the face you see when we meet. Here are three things I learned when I started my nonprofit, Mark’s Mission.
I learned… how to open up and break out of my shell.
I am shy by nature — which is relatively new for me over the last 10 years or so but the point is that I am rather very shy. I feel uncomfortable in large crowds. I think it has to do with my anxiety, but I will continue to work that out in therapy. Being the face of an organization means I come in contact with people daily, albeit mostly virtually, but still. I’ve had to consider my appearance — makeup, skincare, and a new workout routine. If I told you how often I sit in the mirror and practice what I say and how I say things, you may find yourself surprised, too. I don’t do all of these things simply because I manage an organization. I do these things because they help me grow as a person in many different ways. Honestly, I should’ve been doing these all along, but it was my passion and the cause I believe in that drove me to do it.
I learned… that comparison is the thief of joy.
Put that on my headstone, will ya? When we think of nonprofits, we think of major ones — the United Way, March of Dimes, Salvation Army. We rarely think of the smaller ones in our very own community. So right out the gate, I hit the ground running, trying to establish a donor base which… you guessed it, meant I had to break out of my shell. But I also looked at all of the other hard-working nonprofits in our area, large and small. Trying to learn from them has been humbling and eye-opening. I can compare my nonprofit to others, sure, but what does that leave me with? Nothing other than this desire to incorporate their models and their strategies and then I run the risk of losing our mission to adopt theirs — which ultimately sets a nonprofit on a crash course with dissolution.
I learned… that time is the most valuable thing a person can spend.
You know the saying, time is money? I underestimated the amount of time spent running this organization. As the only person with a title and with the assistance of my board of directors, it is a lot and requires about 80 hours a week to get things done. So back to my question, what if you don’t get paid in the form of money? What if your reward is a sense of accomplishment? Relief? Joy? Is it truly worth it? That is my question to you. Is it? Do accomplishment, relief, and joy overpower a paycheck or the time you could be spending doing other things? In my opinion, if it is something you truly believe in something worth fighting for, then absolutely.
The most important thing I learned when starting my small nonprofit is that it requires as much out of me, as the community requires out of it, if not more. It is a cause I believe in. It is a cause I will continue to push for and fight for. Mark’s Mission has required me to grow in every way possible — mentally, physically, and emotionally. I love that my ability to adapt, to grow to become what this organization needs is also allowing me to grow individually as a person, a mother, and a professional. What amazes me more than anything though, is that although these three lessons are extremely important, I still have much more to learn.