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.

Everybody Always

You do business with buyers; you do life with neighbors.

Do you know your neighbors? I just moved out of my childhood home, and I knew most of the neighbors on a surface level. I did not really know them, but we would do the wave and talk to one another when we were outside. I think this is how a lot of Christians know their neighbors. We never take time to invite our neighbors to dinner or get to know them. I know I am guilty of this, and I hope in the future- once I settle in a community to call home- that I am able to put this into practice.

I want people to meet you and me and feel like they’ve just met everyone in heaven.

WOW! This statement is hard to take in because it is hard to love people that have hurt you or taken advantage of you. I think most people expect a lot of Christians to fire back, but we as Christians have to learn to love through trials. I think social media has painted a bad picture of a lot of Christians, and unbelievers will judge a lot of Christians by what they post and how they respond to others. We have to stop beating each other down and learn to not post at all. We show more strength by not posting at all than we do by trying to be right.

God isn’t always leading us to the safest route forward but to the one where we’ll grow the most.

Embrace the journey through the uncomfortable. Loving people can be challenging, but it is people that shape us along the way. Each of us can learn important lessons from people that are different from us. Sure, people will take advantage of our love, but that is okay because we learn to forgive them through God’s love towards us. Love is not safe, and it is painful, but it is worth the journey.

People don’t follow vision; they follow availability.

I think this is a shift that is taking place. People want someone to talk to more than they want vision. I think this shift is happening because of social media. We see so much of others that we, in the end, simply want someone to talk to. Our vision has been blinded by our unavailability.

Loving people the way Jesus did either changes everything in us or it changes nothing.

Jesus loved people expecting nothing in return. Too often we make loving people a job instead of a calling. We cannot look at people as a job, but rather we should look at them through the eyes of Jesus. When we see people the way Jesus did, then we will be moved with compassion, and that changes everything in us. We have to quit using the language of “they are a piece of work” or “they suck the life out of me” because those are the very people Jesus would choose to be with. Love people to the point of being uncomfortable because that is when Jesus will change more in you as a person.

Compassion and Culture

I just started a new book by David Platt called Counter Culture. He is breaking down nine areas that our culture has basically allowed to become social norms. The book has me thinking a lot about the word compassion and how to be compassionate in a world that is broken and without compassion.

First, compassion moves us to action not anger. We as Christ’s disciples have to realize that he didn’t call us to be angry at the world but he called us to love it. This doesn’t mean we must keep silent about issues but there is a right way to standup for what you believe and protesting isn’t one of them. We have killed our witness over social media platforms because of us “protesting” in the name of Christ. It is easier to protest against someone than to love them. We have gotten really good at protesting but lack in love.

Second, everyone is called to be compassionate not just a few people. I do not like when you people say, “Daniel, you are so compassionate.” It makes me upset because it is almost like they are saying “thank you for doing my part as a disciple for me”. Compassion is a call for everyone. The issues and the cries of this world should break your heart. It shouldn’t make you look around and encourage people that are living out a compassionate life. Your encouragement doesn’t replace your responsibility to be compassionate.

Third, GET INVOLVED! Nothing makes me more upset than people that talk about an issue but aren’t doing anything to help. The world has seen enough talkers, they are looking for doers. Your greatest witness to the world is to show them you care further than your pew seat. Pews keep making the Christian church more comfortable while the world is crying out. Don’t be afraid to get involved in someone else’s mess.

Don’t be a bystander anymore. Get involved in some mess. It is time that we quit making the word compassionate about how big of a check we write. Checks don’t replace your compassionate duties. My prayer is that we don’t just write checks but get involved with the place our check is going towards. What would happen if we activated compassionate loving disciples in a broken and dying world?