My colleague Priscilla Bratcher and I had the privilege Wednesday of spending time with a client that is in nonprofit start up mode. A young, dynamic pastor has been called to serve a very poor region of eastern North Carolina. His spirit is contagious and with the support of church, school, and town leaders, he is developing a transformational ministry in his community that has been embraced by the town’s citizens as well as area churches and leaders of the North Carolina Conference of the United Methodist Church. It’s a bold plan that has attracted the imagination of a terrific group of people who share a common faith and vision for changing the direction of their struggling community.
During our visit, we facilitated a discussion about the possibilities that exist for the ministry. We started by posing two questions about the future of the ministry.
- In five years, what is the best headline you can imagine?
- What is the worst headline you could imagine?
Answers to the first question were exciting: “A Town Reborn.” “Local Nonprofit Sparks Economic Growth and Private Development.” “New Model for Community Service.” “Our Town: New and Improved.” “Methodists Reclaiming their Wesley Heritage.”
This conversation gave our team the opportunity to be hopeful - embracing all the possibilities that exist for improving the circumstances of their neighbors. It gave them raw material that they will continue to mold into a shared vision for the ministry. As this direction takes shape, it will lead to another important conversation about what it will take to achieve this vision. As board and staff leaders of the ministry, it will be this team’s responsibility to ensure that there are sufficient human and financial resources to get the work done and that there is a shared commitment to, and accountability for, the work ahead. Vision this bold cannot be achieved without their shared faith and the resources to carry out their work.
Question two brought more sobering responses: “Nonprofit Under Investigation.” “Nonprofit Accused of Mishandling Funds.” “A Community Out of Focus.” “Stagnation Sets In.”
Talk about cold water in the face!
Yet this conversation is just as important for the leaders of any nonprofit organization. It reminds us that nonprofits exist for the public good; they exist because of the faith people put in its leaders and the resources of time, talent and treasure that a community invests in its mission. Because of this , integrity, transparency and good stewardship are demanded of every organization. Tending to these issues is a critical responsibility of great leadership!
We are inspired by what we see happening in this small town and we believe they have the right people pulling together to achieve their vision. I have faith in this team and the ministry they are offering to those in need and I look forward to reading their best headlines and their stories of success in the months and years ahead!
What are some of the best or worst headlines you can imagine for your nonprofit? Join the conversation and share some of your thoughts with us.
Bert Armstrong is a co-founder and principal of Armstrong McGuire & Associates in Raleigh NC.