Saturday, February 19, 2011

Connecting to mission

Sometimes, a girl just needs an extra close connection to mission. This weekend is providing that for me, as I re-read grant applications in preparation for our organization's annual review panel meeting.

I enjoy the breadth of responsibilities that comes with board service; but this particular role, for this particular nonprofit, is perhaps the most meaningful of all for me. I knew nothing about granting, or chairing a grants committee, when I was recruited to this board (it was part of the package - nothing like leaping in!). I knew it would bring me up close and personal with the work of an organization I already knew well, from other volunteer service roles.

Reading the latest round of proposals brings a dual response: pride in purpose and sadness. Each application offers the promise of lives impacted, lives served because these agencies exist in their communities and the chance for our organization to support their efforts.

Some of the proposals come from ongoing grantees; we know the good work that they do, the numbers of clients served with our funding, and the lives saved because we both were there. Others are new applicants, reaching new areas of a vast state and major gaps in accessibility. So much potential there to make a big difference is represented in each one.

The sadness comes as I remember that funds available will not allow us to fund every worthy project. Even as we feel good about what we will be able to accomplish in the next year, we will know that other needs will either not be met or will require further searching for support from other entities.

Whenever I feel a little crabby about the tedious aspects of governance work, I draw energy from this process and the progress reports that successful grantees will be submitting. It reminds me why we do what we do, and why we need to continue working to expand the our public awareness/education efforts and the initiatives that feed the grant program. An old friend once told me, "Fundraising exists to to accomplish one of two things: to change lives or to save lives." I receive ample proof of both on a fairly regular basis, and that's incredibly special.

How do you stay connected to your mission? Where do you find your evidence? Where do you draw inspiration? What do you need to build that connection? How can your board leadership and your staff help provide that? How will you ask for what you need?

How will you use that knowledge to govern more effectively and make a bigger difference?

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