Textbooks make it seem as if Rosa Parks just one day decided not to sit at the back of the bus. In fact, of course, many other African American women and men had done just that over the years, only to be thrown off the bus. But when Rosa Parks refused to leave her seat in the front of the bus, she did so having been selected by local nonprofits to spark the carefully-planned boycott of the segregated bus company. Heroes don’t act alone: nonprofits support heroes, and heroes understand nonprofits to be platforms for impact, and all are parts of evolving social movements.
Similarly, though each January we celebrate the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr., we often lose sight of the people and organizations behind his accomplishments. This particular January we think of all those that nurtured, shaped and supported King — and those that paved the way for an African American man to take up residence in the White House. Some are hundreds of years old, and even today sprouting new growth from legacy trees. Take a look at this issue’s Did You Know (below) for more.
In nonprofits we sometimes ask, “What is the vision for our organization?” But perhaps like heroes we should be asking ourselves: What is my vision for a changed world, and how does working/volunteering at this organization move that vision forward?
Instead of “What can we be doing in this economic climate,” let’s ask: In this economic climate, what do our constituencies need us to be doing? Let’s learn from heroes that – beyond services and outputs – standing for principles, cohering community, and building movements are important components of vision.
In the last issue of Blue Avocado (“And Now for Something Different About Nonprofits & the Economy”) we discussed the ocean of platitudes and advice coming at nonprofits in this economic climate, and tried to explore some off-the-beaten-track ideas as well. In this issue: At the presidential changing of the guard, a stouthearted look back from Republican Carol Stone at George W. Bush’s legacy for nonprofits, and an almost whimsical look forward by Obama volunteer Torie Osborn.
We also have an article on Sarbanes-Oxley and Nonprofits that includes free templates for required nonprofit policies. And look for our February 1 issue: The Layoff Issue. Until then, watch the cold ground and the bare branches for new shoots and spring growth. — Jan Masaoka