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.

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.

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.



Last week, I was taking a walk around the park at lunch time, and I noticed that the concrete was not even. I started to wonder why there were so many bumps and cracks in the concrete, and then I noticed the roots. Next to the trail, there are a lot of trees, and the roots have been getting under the concrete and breaking the concrete. One place along the way you can see the roots where it has completely broken through the concrete. It is sad because most of the trail is flat until you get to the parts with the roots.

This trail reminds me a lot of our lives. We all have roots, but we try to hide them under a flat surface- hoping no one will see the bumps along the trail. This is why roots have to be dug up and cut off at the core. You can’t cut the limbs off the tree and call it dead. You have to get down to the bottom of the problem. I have been reading and writing a lot about brokenness and how brokenness has a story.

The story with the roots on the trail is that even if the trees were cut down the cracks would still be there, but the cracks would tell the story of redemption. It doesn’t mean the trail will be flat again, but at least it won’t be so bumpy. Embrace the roots that have caused damage; realize that roots are part of the journey, and along the journey repairs have to be made. Repairs aren’t meant to perfect us but to remind us of what once was.

So, what root is breaking through the surface in your life but is so hard to cut at the core? Embrace the breaking but don’t let it stop you. Journey through the roots but do not let the roots journey through you. Do not let the roots control the outcome. Remember, brokenness is a sign of strength not weakness.


So often, our impurity grows out of our impatience.

Guilty as charged. This is a true statement because sometimes our desires grow so strong that we give into sin. It is hard when all your friends are getting married, and you are just in a corner singing “All By Myself”. It is easy during the impatient season to try to make something happen out of God’s will. This is when we settle for what our culture wants. I have noticed that churches that have small groups and accountability partners do not struggle with this as much. It is still hard, but find a group of people that can keep you accountable through your impatient season.

We have made love a relative term-open to anyone’s definition.

This statement could not be truer in our culture. We say we love so many things that we have lost the definition of love. We do not understand the definition, and that is why we let anyone define love because the word has lost its power in our culture. Our culture has defined love, and the church is losing the war in this topic. We watch love movies and Hallmark hoping that one movie would be my story. Love is not defined by a fiction story; it is defined by the cross. You can’t fall in love until you’ve fallen for the one that has died for you.

 “Invited Jesus into our bedroom”- In a humble and unassuming step, he became the first man in my entire life to realign God and sex into their rightful positions-intertwined with one another and braided together with our love story.

I love this point! If we are honest with ourselves, how many men have done this in their marriage? I am not married, and this point hit me in the heart because I would have never thought about inviting Jesus into the bedroom. Yes, some of you may think that Jesus is already in our hearts, but we need Jesus in the bedroom as much as we need Him in our heart. Sex in our culture is not sacred anymore. It is sad because we as men have let this get away from us. I must apologize to the women for not taking a stronger stand on this topic. We as men have to become better and realize women are a gift to us- not to be taken advantage of. We have to get better at building up worth and dignity in women. This is our job as men of the church. Stop being boys and start being men. Set a new standard.

This book is raw! I read this book from a man’s perspective, and it reminded me that men are imperfect and have a lot of work to do. The church cannot shy away from this conversation. I think the average age now of kids seeing pornography is 10 or 11. We must have these conversations at home and church. Do not let culture talk about this topic before you as parents or church leaders address this issue. Men, we have to get better. We have to set the standard and be the man of the house. I would recommend reading Kingdom Man by Tony Evans for all men. We can go longer wait; it is our time to be counterculture.

It’s not all about meeting needs; it’s about connecting people to people

Each one of us as humans has a longing to be connected to one another. It’s part of our human nature to feel connected to people around us. This is a lesson I’m learning through Transition Furniture especially in the last two months. The more I interact with our families, the more I see in them a longing to feel connected. They do not just want only their needs met, they want people to talk to and hang out with. My eyes were opened to this truth in August with one of our shut-in families.

This family came to us from one of our partnering agencies. They needed a stove, refrigerator, and washer/dryer. We got them everything they needed but there was something else they were wanting: they wanted someone to talk to. Every time I visit this family, I spend an hour to an hour and a half with them. They love to tell stories of past experiences and share what is going on with them in their lives. They even tell me what they cook on the stove we gave them and offer me food every time I go there. When I leave their house, they always say, “Come by whenever you want”. This is one of many examples from our families. This is why we are not just a need-based nonprofit but also a relationship-based nonprofit.

We are starting to connect people to our families. This past Christmas we sponsored three different families and it was a huge success. We connected all three of the families to groups that sponsored their Christmas. I know one group is sending Valentine’s goodies home with the kids on Friday. That is one example of how some of our volunteer groups are starting to build relationships with our families.

We believe it’s important to build relationships with our families because it makes them feel appreciated and wanted. A lot of these families don’t have family members close by. Some fled from family members for a new start. It’s important for them to feel that they are welcomed in a city and know they are not alone. Our volunteers know that their time is not wasted, as their own lives are impacted in this building of relationships along with delivering/giving furniture. That is our goal and that is why I know this is only the beginning of connecting people to people. That’s what makes the future so exciting.