Every once in a while, an organization is presented with an opportunity….an opportunity that on the surface seems like a great idea. Perhaps it is an opportunity for additional funding, to start a new program, or to serve in a new community. All these opportunities in and of themselves are great things. How do you decide whether to “jump” on the opportunity?
Nonprofit leaders are visionaries—they see the world for what it could become. And, that is a good thing, without visionaries many of the challenges and issues our world has faced in the past would not be solved today. Since there is a less desirable attribute to counter every positive one, let’s look for a moment at the destructive side of a visionary.
Visionaries can get so caught up in the opportunity they are often unable to evaluate the idea’s effect on themselves and those around them. They develop a case of tunnel vision which presses them forward without consideration for everything else. With a tendency toward idealism and positivity, visionaries struggle to see the negative in the great idea.
Below is a checklist to determine if opportunities and plans are a good idea for right now or a good idea for the future, a good idea for you and your organization or a good idea for someone else and another organization.
- Does the idea, project, funding align with your mission? It is important to evaluate whether there is true mission alignment or whether you are stretching it to make it fit….to justify it.
- Will you need to turn the organization upside down to implement it? Sometimes a great idea just needs to wait because the organization is not quite ready for it. That is ok. Begin adjusting and moving the organization toward the opportunity in the future. It is better to be prepared in the future than to start something that you and your staff are not prepared for.
- What additional demands will you place on your volunteers and staff? Generally, visionaries are high-capacity people. We take on a lot because we have the capacity to do so, and we like it that way. But our staff and volunteers are not always the same type of people. It is important to remember adding programs/services or trying to meet funding guidelines also impacts our staff and can increase the demands on their capacity. Take time to evaluate capacity at all levels of the organization before implementing.
- How will you keep it going? Stretching our staff and resources to capacity might work for short periods of time when starting a new program or receiving funds from a new source during a specific time frame. However, we must ask ourselves, do we plan to continue? If so, how we will keep it going? Sometimes, it is worse to begin something that you can’t continue than to never start at all. Think through the consequences of not being able to continue.
All good ideas have a time and place. Know that sometimes you are not the right person– right now. And, that is ok, if it is truly a great idea, the time will come. But, for now, remember who you are and what your mission is.