As the Jessie Rees Foundation approaches it’s two year mark, people have asked me how we have gone from “grass roots to global” in such a short period of time. I truly wish I could say it was easy and simple, but it has taken countless hours and errors to be where we are today. There has been a ton of pain along the way too. The pain of Jessie’s cancer and the pain we experience every time we hear of a new diagnosis. Thankfully it’s the “pain” that propels us to keep growing and giving as much hope, joy and love as we possibly can each day.
I have also learned a ton about leading a charity, raising awareness, developing donors and mobilizing volunteers. So in an effort to share with others, I came up with a list of “busters” and “builders”. Busters are the things that limit growth and stifle great ideas. Builders are those things that are essential and provide the needed strength, support and strategy to grow. The bottom line is that there are only three stages a charity can be in…growing, maintaining or declining.
Your goal should never be about being “bigger and bigger”. Rather, your goal should be about becoming “better and better”. Healthy should be your focus because all healthy things grow.
10 BUSTERS:: things to watch out for as you build your charity.
1) Mixed messages
2) Comparing your charity with others
3) Accepting success overnight
4) Trying to be all things to all people
5) Worrying about asking for help & money
6) Forgetting to appreciate volunteers and celebrate the big and small victories
7) Limited delegation of roles and responsibilities
8) Low joy-factor
9) Under valuing your donors
10) No intentional evaluation process
10 BUILDERS:: things that are essential for growth and health.
1) Define Your story:: Nothing becomes dynamic until it becomes specific. You must have a compelling story that can be told over and over. Your story can have a long version for those lunch meetings but you also need a 30 second version that touches the story, shows the need and offers how you meet the need. After you have developed your story, set a goal to share it 10 times a week. I love talking about Jessie every opportunity I get.
2) Decide Your VMOG:: VMOG stands for Vision, Mission, Objectives & Goals. Vision is your picture of a future outcome. Mission is how you are going to get there. Objectives are mile marks that keep you on track. Goals are how you measure your effectiveness.
3) Determine Your Leadership Team:: Every leader has strengths and weaknesses. The key is to surround yourself with people that have strengths where you are weak. This takes a sense of humility and willingness to know who you are and who you aren’t. In addition, you need the strength and courage to ask for help. At JRF we use a multi-tier leadership structure: Board of Directors, Board of Advisors and Core Team.
4) Delegate Roles:: I’ve learned that you either structure for growth or control. You can’t have both in a growing charity. At JRF, we strive to delegate authority with responsible. Each core team member has their roles and responsibilities and is held accountable for them. If I tried to do everything I would burn out and JRF would stop growing.
5) Develop Your “Strategies Partners”:: My goal is to develop local and national “strategic partners” that enable us to grow and maintain movement. Strategic Partners are those who offer to use their resources, connections and platform to help you grow. For example, when we first launched JoyJars with Jessie we were paying $13 to ship each one. With the help of our Strategic Shipping Partner (UPS), we are able to ship JoyJars at $10 or less. We have a two Strategic Label Partners (Axiom & Avery Dennison) and a Strategic Box Partner (Triple A Containers). These partners save us thousands of dollars each year. Someday we hope to have a Strategic Toy Partner to help us fill the JoyJars with quality toys at great prices.
6) Discern Your Healthy Pace:: I have talked with several CEO’s that once had great energy and enthusiasm but are now exhausted and nearing the end of their rope by the pace they keep. If the pace of your charity is causing you to lose joy, energy and enthusiasm, please STOP and REST. As you rest, think back to the initial excitement you had when you first started. You must rekindle your passion for your purpose or your progress will slow. The pace you keep will also help those around you maintain a healthy pace too. You can’t “red-line” every day, otherwise you will burn out and blow up. You also need to determine the pace of your events and activities so your leaders, volunteers and donors don’t get burned out too.
7) Depend on Social Media:: We live in a world that is driven by social media and if your charity is not leveraging this area, you are missing out on some amazing free tools. Facebook has been the most instrumental in scaling us globally. We have fans in over 30 countries that help us locate kids that we can help NEGU. There are others like Twitter, Pinterest, You-Tube and Instragram. If you are going to use one of these platforms make sure you are updating it daily so you stay current and compelling.
8) Dispense Joy to Your Team:: Everyday I’m thinking about how I can bring joy to the amazing team at JRF that I get the honor of serving kids with. As the leader, you must go the extra mile and make sure your team is operating within their joy-zone so they live daily with great fulfillment and results.
9) Deploy Grassroots Opportunities:: I’ve learned the less opportunity you have the less growth you have. People truly “love Jessie” and want to be about “love kids fighting cancer” so we have to give people opportunities to feel they are making an impact. I’m not talking about donations; rather opportunities to support Jessie and her wish to encourage every kids fighting cancer to NEGU. For us, our JoyDrives are great ways for people to feel they are truly making an impact. What about you?
10) Detail Your Progress:: Evaluating your efforts on a regular basis is key to maintaining health and ensuring growth. If you wait too long to ask some probing questions, you could be wasting valuable time and resources. Each month I ask myself 4 key questions:
1) What’s right? This is a chance to celebrate
2) What wrong? This is a chance to change
3) What’s missing? This is a chance to add
4) What’s confusing? This is a chance to clarify
I hope you find these seven “busters” & “builders” helpful as you look to grow a healthy charity. Remember, all healthy things grow!