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Got an unwavering belief your vision can be realized?

Tapping your small nonprofit’s potential requires a firm resolve. Unfortunately, limiting beliefs can work in reverse to dangerously shape the organizational culture. Sometimes in a very unsuspecting way.

Energy can quickly dissipate. Mediocrity results and unnecessary boundaries become established. The sky is no longer the limit.

A tone of impoverishment attracts only scarcity and constrains your efforts. You stop attempting. Choices become limited and there is a narrowing of possibilities.

Not the type of impact a good steward would seek.

Hurry back to the laboratory for your next discovery!

Remember, the vision is always one step ahead of you. Chasing it means making a few mistakes along the way. Our troubled world has many problems for charities to tackle. Making it a better place requires calculated risk-taking.

Perfection is not expected but patience is.   


Here are 10 limiting beliefs to be on the lookout for.

1. Our charity is fragile.

Your charity can be robust. Building a dynamic think on your feet culture promotes resilience. That can give your small nonprofit a leg up on bigger competitors that often don’t have the luxury of turning on a dime.

2. Donors hate overhead.

No donor wants to see their funds wasted. Likely neither do you. Build a meaningful infrastructure that produces a good return on investment. That’s something reasonable donors won’t object to.

3. Failure is unacceptable.

John Wooden said failure is not fatal but failure to change might be. Continuously transform your organization and multiply impact. That’s what stakeholders want to see.

4. Board Member=Fundraiser

The equation is wrong. Many Board members bring unique skill sets that small nonprofits fail to tap. Let them guide you through their pipeline when they are ready. Board members are really your triple threat.

Board Member=Conduit+Consultant +Volunteer

5. Small nonprofits can’t compete with big ones.

When your small nonprofit stops competing for resources and starts attracting them it will no longer have larger competitors top of mind. Avoid the red tape of endless channels: simplify and keep it like family.

6. There’s not enough time.

Time can be what we want the most. But do we make good use of it? Time is a finite resource. Don’t wish for more of it-just extract more from it.

7. Money is what we need the most.

No, the power of people moving together toward a shared vision is what you really need. The goodness-outcomes and money-will follow.

8. Our Board doesn’t get it.

Your Board members bring their own life experiences to the table. They may be trying to plugin to your mission using an outlet other than the one you have ready for them. Embrace the diversity in that.

9. Meetings are a waste of time.

It’s essential to take time away from busyness to dissect problems and opportunities. Waste typically comes from a poorly orchestrated gathering. Call it a meeting, committee, working group or retreat.  It matters not. Stay focused with a desired outcome. Always leave with action steps and clearly agreed upon responsibilities to keep the positive momentum.

10. We’re awesome!

Glad to hear that but I have news for you. Your charity will never arrive. Always strive to get better and leave more. Stop tooting your horn- your awesomeness is best evaluated by stakeholders. Knock their socks off and they will have their own parade on your behalf.

The Glass Delusion

During the Middle Ages, a disorder called the glass delusion developed. Even the King of France became “afflicted”. People actually believed they were made of glass and could shatter into pieces. Consequently, they went to great lengths to protect themselves. The resulting fear led to the establishment of unrealistic boundaries.

Does your small nonprofit suffer from the glass delusion?

Get Into Their Heads

Find out what’s on your stakeholder’s minds. Pick a sample of board members, management, staff and volunteers. Here’s five questions you can ask to get started. Compare the results searching for common threads.

  • What one word would you use to describe our organization?
  • Are your gifts being fully utilized here?
  • What does success mean to you?
  • What is our greatest asset?
  • Why do you believe in our mission?

Be cautious when adopting industry “norms”, especially when the results are less than spectacular. Challenging conventional thinking is sometimes necessary to forge ahead. In fact,  playing it safe can be the most dangerous thing in the world.

What limiting beliefs are causing your small nonprofit to stagnate?

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