During times of crisis, we’re reminded of the importance of connectedness. Sticking together can create a common sense of purpose and confidence in one’s ability to face uncertainties that lie ahead.
Embracing connectedness can benefit organizations, too. Nonprofits often face helping the most vulnerable communities during crises, working hard to ensure no one falls through the cracks.
When providing or advocating for public goods, streamlining efforts during a crisis can simplify the implementation of services in the short-term. It can also become a moment of revisioning, or a checkpoint that clarifies strategic priorities to strengthen future work in the long-term.
However, the transition from *many* to *one* can be difficult. Existing duplicities in public services provided to a community can cause tension between organizations with similar missions.
Consider an example I experienced first hand, one involving two organizations that we’ll call Center A and Center B.
Historically, both viewed one another strictly as competitors, taking clients from one another, rather than potential partners fighting for the same clients and mission.
This tension was well known externally among the local political and social justice scene. I was aware of this uncomfortable dynamic, too, prior to accepting a role at Center A, but in light of my connection to leadership at Center B and having been a client of both organizations, I sought to end this hostility.
In 2018, Centers A and B faced a law that would jeopardize a key service and the licensing of staff who perform it. Amid talks with state-level legal partners to file a lawsuit, a Center A board member reached out to me saying legal counsel for Center B expressed interest in filing, too. I contacted the executive director at Center B to schedule a meeting with her, the Center A CEO, and myself. We all agreed joining forces as co-plaintiffs was the right thing to do.
Fast forward a year later: the judge declared the law unconstitutional. This partnership between Centers A and B continues to this day on an array of lawsuits.
This example demonstrates the power of partnership and having strength in numbers. Nonprofits with similar missions can be stronger together and ensure no one falls through the cracks.
Storytelling is central to cultivating a culture of community between a nonprofit organization, the population(s) it serves, and the volunteers and donors needed to assist in its mission-driven work.
As a development director, storytelling is one of the most important tools I use to inspire donors and volunteers to support Planned Parenthood of the Heartland.
In fact, this tool is used affiliate-wide at PPHeartland. Mission Moments (MMs) are paragraph-long statements that aim to set an inspirational and mission-driven tone at the start of all internal and external meetings. These MMs cover an array of meaningful interactions with donors, volunteers, and patients.
Whether in a one-on-one donor conversation or event planning committee meeting, I always have a printed MM in my bag ready to go.
MMs can invoke a sense of ownership and influence in donors and volunteers, helping to demonstrate impact of their philanthropic work. This in turn can increase the likelihood of them making a monthly, annual, or even transformational gift.
So how does PPHeartland come up with these MMs? Well, Ann Handley in Everybody Writes describes a process nearly matches ours.
While Handley explains this process from the for-profit perspective, below are key questions that she raises with my insertion of nonprofit language:
Handley lists the following must-have characteristics for stories. Please note some overlap between these points: