In this economic climate, what do our constituencies need us to be doing?
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.
About the Author
Jan is a former editor of Blue Avocado, former executive director of CompassPoint Nonprofit Services, and has sat in on dozens of budget discussions as a board member of several nonprofits. With Jeanne Bell and Steve Zimmerman, she co-authored Nonprofit Sustainability: Making Strategic Decisions for Financial Viability, which looks at nonprofit business models.
Articles on Blue Avocado do not provide legal representation or legal advice and should not be used as a substitute for advice or legal counsel. Blue Avocado provides space for the nonprofit sector to express new ideas. Views represented in Blue Avocado do not necessarily express the opinion of the publication or its publisher.