Why I will never do another “free” nonprofit

Why I will never do another “free” nonprofit

I remember starting my nonprofit in college. I felt like an adult: 22 years old starting a nonprofit and ready to tackle every need that came my way. I remember receiving the letter from the IRS saying, “Congrats, Transition Furniture is a nonprofit.” I was ready to collect and fundraise thousands of dollars to turn the nonprofit into a full-time job! I quickly ran into a problem.

I was serving people for free! I wanted to help everyone that needed furniture. I did not ask questions, and I was so compassion driven that I quickly ran into burnout. I had to take a step back analyze my purpose in the mission of Transition Furniture. I restructured the process, but I still continued to serve people for free, and people did not pay a dime for the furniture they received. It became a problem, so what did I do? I took another step back.

I walked away from the nonprofit because I knew that my helping was not doing anything but continuing to empower people with a free label. I was serving people, but to what point was I serving them? Was I empowering them to continue to another free event? Was I telling them to come back again and get more free items? Was I truly serving people in need? Yes, I do believe in helping people in need, but when do we realize that meeting a temporary need is not always the answer.

I recently finished my MBA, and my thinking process has completely changed. Starting a nonprofit at the age of 22 was not the smartest idea. I thought money would flow in because I was young and making an impact on the community. I quickly realized that funders want to see sustainability before asking for money. Now, I have an idea of what I would have done differently.

If I could go back in time, I would setup a furniture store based on income. I made sure to get good quality furniture from the people wanting to donate to Transition Furniture. I would tell people, “If you would not have it in your house, please do not give it to me.” This would eliminate the idea that Transition Furniture was just the hand me down place to donate. The new idea for the store would be that families would be able to come in and purchase furniture at a price they can afford. There is a lot of hard working people out there, but furniture is expensive, and they cannot afford to buy new. Transition Furniture would be a place for affordable place to reward individuals/families for their hard work. Transition Furniture would be a place to restore hope in hopeless situations and give them the push they need to continue working hard. Shopping at Transition Furniture store would be the beginning of their empowerment journey.

Disruptive Witness

Causes are as easy to pick up as they are to put down.

I really enjoyed this topic in the book. We are people of cause. A lot of people will follow a cause because of their peers. They do not really care about the cause but think it is cool because their friends are doing it. Stop being part of a cause because it is cool. Pursue a cause that you are personally invested in. Stop letting the world pick your cause. When we let the world choose our causes, we live a half-hearted mission.

How on earth can we redeem each moment for him if we are so absorbed by the next thing that we forget he exists at all?

Sometimes, I think we live for the next best thing or event in our lives. We do not understand the concept of being still and trying to learn in the moments. I have learned the faster I go, the less I learn. We miss moments because we rush through them. The same can be said with God. We live from our computer screen to our cell phone screen and miss moments with God. I have been trying to go to the mountains once a week because that is my time to be still. It helps me hit the pause button and be still. As I look at the mountains, I realize that this world was not created overnight. So why then do we try to overnight our moments with God? Stop making God UPS and learn to rest in Him and with Him.

The mourning we experience reflects the reality that each human life is significant and made in the image of God. 

This statement is so true. It is always hard to hear of someone dying. You might have not known the individual very well, but your heart still breaks for the person. It does not matter if the person mourning is a Christian, their heart still breaks for that individual. My old college pastor told a story once that he was invited to speak at a young person’s funeral. He did not know the person, but he said it was a very sad time. At the end, he gave an opportunity to accept Christ. A lot of people in that room accepted Christ and lots of tears were shed. That story has stuck with me because they were mourning the loss of God’s creation, but that day mourning was turned into joy because people were saved, and love came in.

Alan did a great job writing this book. It really makes you think about how I can become a better witness in the world. We have to do better. We have to stop fighting our battles over social media and start listening more. We have let our causes be our voice instead of letting the love of God speak through us. So, are you ready to be a true witness? If so, get this book.

Extreme Ownership

The leader must own everything in his or her world. They take Extreme Ownership of everything that impacts their mission.

Leaders empower team members to fulfill a mission, but sometimes they fail at the mission. The leader is ultimately responsible for the failure of the mission. Leaders take ownership of the failures and help the people under them succeed next time. Leaders cannot be mad at their members and expect them to do better next time. Failing is never bad; it is how we respond to failure that determines the next outcome of the mission. This is why it is so important for leaders to develop members through extreme ownership.

Leaders must accept total responsibility, own problems that inhibit performance and develop solutions to those problems.

I love this concept because the statement lays out how to solve problems as a leader. First, take total responsibility. Do not pass blame, accept it. Second, if the problems continue to happen then it is time to come up with a solution. Problems will continue to grow when they are only addressed but never solved. Do not have unsolved problems as a leader.

Simplifying as much as possible is crucial to success. When plans and orders are too complicated, people may not understand them.

Not everyone is on the same level as you. Speak to them at a level they understand. Do not try to make yourself look smart because that will only cause confusion. It is like the saying goes, “Keep it simple, stupid.” The same goes in leadership. Remember, you did not know everything you know now. Speak to your team like you are in their shoes because at the end of the day, you all are wearing the same shoes with the same mission.

As a leader employing Extreme Ownership, if your team isn’t doing what you need them to do, you first have to look at yourself.

Leaderships starts with you. The only person to blame in leadership is yourself. That is the concept of extreme ownership. It isn’t about what your team members are not doing, but it is about trying to get them to focus on the mission. Learn your team members before you try to lead them. You also have to know yourself because the last thing a team member wants is a lost person looking to find purpose. Leaders have to get up every morning and conquer themselves before they can conquer the world.

Extreme Ownership is a book that will challenge you. It takes you on a journey as a Navy Seal and how they operate. They do not blame but accept responsibility for every victory and failed mission. They do not focus on what did not work but focus on solutions to make sure it would never happen again. So, if you are willing to take a jump in your leadership abilities grab this book and a pen.

Finding Your Way Back to God

IMG_7282Finding Your Way Back to God: Dave Ferguson & Jon Ferguson

This book changed my whole perspective on the prodigal story in the Bible. If you grew up in church, then you understand how many times this story has been told from the pulpit. This book takes that story and explains this statement:

“God, if you are real, make yourself real to me.”

The prodigal story is found in Luke 15, and it is about a young man that takes his inheritance early and then leaves his father’s house. He goes, spends everything, and ends up in the pits feeding and eating with the pigs. The first concept is the journey back home from our past. The son had to make the journey home, but he was full of guilt and shame. The journey home brings healing, freedom, and forgiveness, but it is up to us to make the journey home. The question on the way back home that we must ask is, “How did you forget God?” This question must be asked because somewhere along our journey of pursuing God, we have forgotten him, and then we realize that we need his grace and love to make it back home.

Another concept from the book is about a longing for love. On p. 32 of the book it states, “Sometimes human relationships add incredible richness to our lives. Sometimes they just bring sorrow. But none of these relationships can fulfill the deepest longing for love in our hearts. That’s why, in our journey to find God, we need to pay attention to whether our desire for love is distracting us or is leading us to him.” We have to ask ourselves, “Who is our true love? Are we trying to fulfill love by worldly desires or Godly desires?” We have to examine our hearts and make sure our pursuit of God is for love’s sake and not only heaven’s sake. Sometimes I think we get so caught up on trying to get to heaven that we fall in love with the concept of heaven more than God.

One of the last concepts that I would like to talk about is asking God, “Why?”

A lot of Christians or even people that have left the faith want to ask God, “Why did this happen to me?” The book goes over this “why” concept and how that can keep us away from God. Asking God why only makes us lose faith in God because we question his way. We do not understand, but we must have faith to believe that God will work all things out in his own time. It is not our job to ask why, but it is our job to say, “I will trust you, God.”

By the end of the book Jon and David explain the son’s arrival home back to the father’s house. I do not want to spoil the ending, so you will have to buy the book and read the rest of the nuggets of wisdom that they explain. Some of these thoughts are my own that I gathered from the book as I read it. So, please do not hold the authors accountable for all of the statements. I hope you buy this book! I highly recommend it. I will post a link to purchase the book from Amazon.

START

The best things that have happened to me in the last five years weren’t things I planned.

YES! Planned lives leave no room for adventure and faith. To be honest, the best things will not happen when we try to control the outcome. We miss out on opportunities when we try to plan our journey. The only one that is writing our story is God, and we have to let Him write it without our planner on his throne. His ways are always better than ours and are usually a surprise.

Forget finding a purpose. It’s a never-ending story that will leave you empty. Live with purpose instead.

I loved this perspective in the book. We spend so much time as humans finding a purpose for our lives that we miss the point. The point is never to find our purpose but realize our life is purpose. If you have a heartbeat, then your life has purpose. Don’t find it; live it. 

But money isn’t a calling. It’s a consequence.

Money does make the world go around, but it should not control your life. I remember running my nonprofit and not being paid to do it. I believed in my dream so much that I was willing to work full-time and do the nonprofit in the evening. I wasn’t called to make money, but I am called to serve people. Pursuing money will leave you empty once you realize you have everything but the dream in you. Don’t sacrifice money on the altar of your dream.

You need to spend more time practicing your dream than you do promoting your dream.

Talk about a punch in the face. Too often, we spend more time telling people about our dream than we do living our dream. Do not tell me about it; show me your dream. Practice, research, and excel at your dream. Stop waiting for your promo to make it big, and let your dream be your promo. If I wanted to watch a promo, then I would go to the movies and watch a trailer. Do not put your dream trailer on the big screen until you are living it and continuing to learn through your dream.

I read this book in two days. Jon Acuff is a great author, and he is a little funny. I am thankful for the person who bought this book at full price and gave it to McKay’s. It saved me some money. I will pay full price for Jon Acuff next book. I highly recommend this book if you feel stuck or in need of a boost to get you back on track.

 

 

10 Seconds of Insane Courage

Every successful person has faced enormous unknowns, but they found enough courage to take the leap and give their idea a shot.

This is the story of my nonprofit journey. I remember being a junior in college with a crazy idea of starting a nonprofit. I developed the idea for a class, met with my local United Way, and the journey began. I was scared to death, but I wanted to help the community. The courage I had was because of the people I was serving. I did not focus on what I did not have, but I believed after every need was posted that community would meet the need. I am not doing the nonprofit anymore, but it is still a part of me. I had to step away from it, and that took a lot of courage, but at least I gave it a shot.

 Fear says, “Play it safe. Hang on to what you’ve got.” Courage responds, “Let go. Life happens outside your comfort zone.”

 I love this statement! Nothing is safe about courage. It is true: life happens outside of the comfort zone. Comfortability traps us in the known, but courage happens in the unknown. You will grow as a person in the unknown. I grew a lot more as a person having faith in the unknown than I did in the known, running my nonprofit. One of the craziest stories was when I received a message from another ministry. It said, “We have a sprinter van that we would like to donate to you for your nonprofit. We see that you are always looking for trucks and renting vehicles.” WHAT?!?! It was one of the most surreal moments of my life. I was living outside of my comfort zone, and that is when another ministry met a huge need for the nonprofit.

If you’re not failing, you’re not growing.

Failure is the best medicine for personal growth. I failed an enormous amount of times running the nonprofit. The first mistake was not setting guidelines. I came into the office one day and had 15 yellow slips on my desk of people needing furniture. I developed a system shortly after that to reach a target audience. The second mistake was doing everything for free. The next time I do this nonprofit, I will develop a furniture bank based on income. We will setup a system where people/families can buy furniture at a huge discounted price. The nonprofit would probably still be operating today if I had done this from the beginning.

When we begin to change how we think about failure, we have far more hope for the future.

I remember doing the nonprofit and having so many challenges and failures, and I questioned if I was doing the right thing. It felt like I was doing all the right things but in the wrong place. I believe I will still develop this nonprofit idea but in a different location in the future. I have learned from my failures, and I still believe in the future of the nonprofit. I did not focus on my failures, but I chose to focus towards the future because I know it will happen.

I read this book in two days! I actually avoided my MBA work to read the book. It will give you a spark to not give up on a dream. Courage is insane, and sometimes 10 seconds can change your life. Don’t be afraid of insane courage.

Stop

red stop signage under clear blue sky
Photo by Martin Péchy on Pexels.com

This word is probably the most hated word in America. We live in a fast paced culture that likes to keep moving and rolling (even through stops signs. Guilty as charged!)  It is the hardest word to follow when trying to hurry through life. We do not have time to stop and be present because we feel like we do not have time to stop.

I was at church a couple weeks ago, and the pastor was talking about always trying to be good and do good and not resting in the righteousness of Christ. Sometimes I think Christianity has become so many rules that we always try to reach the status of Christ, but we were never called to reach the status of Christ. We are called to follow Christ and make disciples. Too often, instead of resting in Christ, we strive to become perfect like Christ, but that is not our purpose. Stop trying to strive. Rest.

When we try to strive in Christ, we end up failing because we are all sinful creations. We are not perfect, so let’s all be real and know that each of us will fail. This is one of my biggest fears: that we try to become perfect Christians instead of becoming disciples. I saw a tweet that said, “Instead of making a to-don’t list, make a to-do list.” But I question if God really wants a to-do list, or does he just want our hearts?

So, stop trying and let God work on your heart. Stop trying to become the perfect Christian and rest in his peace. Stop acting like you have it all together; be broken and real with God. He is looking for imperfect people. When we stop trying, God starts working in us and through us. Christianity shouldn’t feel like a job it should be filled with peace and rest.