Step 6: Execution
Execution is what differentiates those who are solving problems and making an impact from those who are getting in the way or those who will eventually close up shop and see their dreams come undone.
I simply cannot tell you how many times I get contacted by folks who want to start a non profit. They're passionate dreamers who are ready to take on the world.
But, there is a big difference between a dreamer and a doer.
Which one are you?
Word Hard: Really Hard
It takes a lot of work to launch and run a successful nonprofit—this is obvious. Think about this one reality: nonprofits work to GIVE AWAY MONEY. That is not normal. We are also held to a different standard than churches and businesses because of our legal framework.
So the question is: how do you execute well, over and over and over? This is how you go from a being a dreamer to a doer.
If you're going to be known as an organization that gets real work done—an organization that executes—you're going to have to create that culture first. Then, you must expect and demand high results from the entire supply chain.
Board members, staff, volunteers and partners—everyone has to be aligned and committed to producing great work. This must be the standard.
Remember, you are using donor's funds; it is so important that you take that seriously and you try to use those funds and honor the donor’s generosity.
And, you are trying to solve a real life problem—in our case, extreme poverty. I know that real people rely on me and my team to get work done.
This is the weight we carry as leaders.
What is your mission?
For us, it's empowering local leaders, caring for vulnerable and orphan kids, and transforming communities.
Our team has to ask ourselves over and over if are we doing that well.
Here’s an eye test: if a donor showed up and saw our projects, would they be proud they donated to that project, or would they be upset or feel as if their funds were misused or wasted?
Our hope is that every time a donor shows up to one of our projects, they would be overwhelmed by it. I recently had a board member visit one of our projects. He called me after he returned from Haiti and said, "Dude, I had no clue how amazing that project was. We need to tell a better story for all of those who donated."
This is the kind of response I'm after, and this is the response you should also be after as well.
You have to monitor two key outcomes:
1) Projects: Are the projects that you are raising money for coming to fruition and solving the problems that your organization is passionate about?
2) Workflow: Is your team working hard, being efficient, and getting work done on time and in budget?
Focus: Start Small and Scale Opportunities
So how do you do that? How do you execute well? You start by staying focused—deep, Deep DEEP focus. Do not attempt to do more than you can handle; this is a recipe for disaster.
Start small, execute well, implement the strategy, and allow these success stories to build natural momentum. I remember hearing Scott Harrison's story, of charity:water; he raised money at his birthday party and used that money to drill new water wells.
Once all of those wells were live and water was flowing, he sent a simple thank you with pictures to everyone who donated.
Just that easily, charity:water was started and they have not slowed down since. Why? Because they execute at a high level.
I remember the first ask I ever made to our tribe. We built a chicken pen to help our kids in Zimbabwe. They were lacking protein and they needed more eggs and meat in their diet.
It was a $6000 project for Christmas, 2009. That seemed IMPOSSIBLE at the time.
We raised the money, built the pen, and sent pictures back to everyone who donated. That was the first project and we still do that today.
So simple, yet so powerful.
We must be held accountable as an organization. Completing and proving the work is one of the best ways to do that.
What is your chicken pen or water well? Do what Scott did—start really small. Do not try to take on the world. Implement that project, share the results, and build off of that momentum.
If you have patience and discipline, you will see your organization grow.
Develop Key Systems/automations
Nonprofits cannot live in chaos. We don't have the funds that everyone else has; therefore, we have to run a lean, efficient organization to be effective long term. It's the nature of the beast.
You must be passionate about creating systems that will help you execute the day to day plan, so you can be more efficient with your time and resources.
Do yourself a favor: each year, try to systematize 2 or 3 key areas of need, whether it’s finances, communications, follow up, donor relations, etc.
Systems will help you grow, and they will also help you be healthy and more focused. Systems will help you sleep at night and systems will give the donor confidence that you are running an effective organization.
No systems = no long term success. You simply won't be known as an organization that executes over and over if you don't have systems in place.
And here's the kicker: the larger you grow, the harder it is. So, start now; begin to create effective systems that you can leverage.
No One is Perfect
You need to create a high standard, but you don't have to be perfect. We make so many mistakes. Sometimes, I feel as if we will never learn.
But, our tribe knows that we are committed to doing great work. If we make mistakes, it's not because we're lazy or slacking off. They trust us, even when we are lame.
So, be committed to holding a high standard, but know that you can't be great in every aspect all at once. It's impossible.
Be committed to doing great work, systematize everything, admit when you fail and make mistakes, and be patient and allow the work that is done to create the momentum that is needed.
And then celebrate!
(which is step seven)
Also, if you missed the any recent parts of the series, click below to catch up.
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