With three years of invaluable insights and enlightenment under my belt, I think it is only fitting to share with you a sampling of an abundance of reflections on my experience as a nonprofit founder. As you read on, you will find a summary of four of what I characterize as the basic components of a not-for-profit journey that I have embraced as mine. This desire to share thoughts on some of the nonprofit related lessons of my life can be attributed, in part, to the deep appreciation for people who have repeatedly answered the call, and even exceeded expectations, to assist with Your Time For Creative Empowerment events and activities over the years. Some of these dedicated volunteers and supporters have consented (reluctantly) to be honored at the upcoming 3rd Your Time For Creative Empowerment, Inc. Annual Gala! I suspect the reason that outstanding volunteers kick and scream at the thought of being honored is captured by this quote which I understand quite well. “Anything can be accomplished as long as you don’t care who gets the credit.” -Unknown-
The 2015 Scholarship and Fundraising Gala which will hopefully raise funds for our college scholarships, student-driven leadership clubs, and take our signature programs to the next level, is the perfect vehicle through which I can humbly extend my gratitude to each and every one who has contributed to the success of the first and subsequent fundraising events. Please click here for pictorial memories or an introduction to highlights of our 2013 and 2014 Galas. You are invited to browse our websites (www.yourtime4liny.org and www.creativeempowermentarts.org) for a reason to support our initiative this year.
The excitement I feel from the sweet spirit of support and understanding from all who have contributed to the glorious moments of this organization must not, however, be dampened by some of the most challenging moments of disappointment, bias, pettiness that can get in the way of, and completely destroy the faint of heart on this nonprofit-nurturing journey. It is for this reason that I offer the following as tools with which one can prepare oneself to set out on this journey.
The Dream and the Marriage
It all starts with the first step towards the unknown! With not much more than a burning desire to make a selfless contribution to the quality of life of others that you may or may not know, you toss your hat into the ring of the nonprofit world. It is at this time that the “I” becomes the “We” in a manner that is not unlike the expectation of a healthy marriage dynamic. The slight difference here, is that this relationship is sustained by the support of people from all walks of life, of all social and economic status, and race and religious affiliations with a genuine desire to pitch in and help make a Founder’s vision come to life. After all, there is a reason why successful “dreamers” are best complemented by effective and efficient “doers” in order that they can keep on dreaming. This is not to say that a visionary must not orient herself or himself to be an implementer of the related skill-set required to keep things moving! My mindset on taking on this mission is summarized in the following quote: “The only time it is about me, is when I show basic respect and common decency towards my co-laborers as my primary contribution towards upholding the integrity and facilitating the goals of a common cause” -Madona Cole-Lacy-
A Case for Mentorship
Mentoring, offered formally or informally by those who already know the ropes, is also as important as the benevolence of those who give freely of their time in other areas, share their expertise, make donations and contributions to help make things work out for the beneficiaries targeted in the vision. The following says it all for me! “Leaders should influence others in such a way that it builds people up, encourages and edifies them so they can duplicate this attitude in others.” -Bob Goshen-
Founder? Let’s try Volunteer/Donor-in-Chief
Do titles really matter? Yes, when they clearly reflect the role and realities of the position, they do matter. This designation is one I have come up with to describe a role that founders play in the equation of the nonprofit startup – one that is likely to be taken for granted by those who are standing on the outside looking in. Those who fit into this category find themselves making unbelievable sacrifices that at times can affect their own state of well-being, as they work toward building a firm foundation that others might find worthy to identify with. I duff my hat to all who fit into this category, and pray that more like-minded folks will bring some relief soon! “I found that the men and women who got to the top were those who did the jobs they had in hand, with everything they had of energy and enthusiasm and hard work.” -Harry S. Truman –
Personal Growth and Development
This is the greatest area of challenge, even with all the competent personal development coaches or well-written books and manuals that aspiring and seasoned nonprofit leaders can easily access. I know how important these resources can be with regards to the development of self in readiness for working successfully with others. It is my belief that the main contributing factor to a halfway successful venture is the ability to work with the many personalities that will be encountered along the way – exercising self-control and discipline in dealing with people you encounter. Rather than elaborate on this important issue which I suspect every founder or leader has to deal with sometime, I want to invite you, the reader, to share how you deal with this make or break issue. What is your experience? Please do not hesitate to SHARE. Here is a quote on the subject that hits the nail on the head for me. “Personal growth is to see each moment, each person, each challenge and each adversity as an opportunity to embrace more of yourself and the world around you.” – Tom Erik Green-
As I sign off, I want to thank you for allowing me to engage you up to this point. It is now time for me to go back to this year’s Gala preparation. Do plan to be there if you can, or show your appreciation for what Your Time For Creative Empowerment, Inc. does to empower 21st Century youth by selecting one of the options for support here.
Madona Cole-Lacy, M.A.Ed.
Visual/Teaching Artist & Cultural Partner ~ Motivator ~ Social Entrepreneur ~ Educator