So we fasted and petitioned our God about this, and he answered our prayer.
As a nonprofit professor, many people ask about starting a new nonprofit. The passion they have for creating an organization that produces change has many steps. The eighth chapter of Ezra lays out a blueprint for the basic first few steps.
- Ezra had a team of like-minded individuals (8:1-14). If you are looking at people standing next to you and find that they have the same passion, walk the journey together. On the other hand, if you are passionate about a particular cause and it feels like you are doing it all alone, it’s because you are. The best nonprofits I’ve seen start with people who were already walking the same road and decided to do it together. In modern nonprofits, these are the members of the founding board.
- Ezra had the authorities approve the plan (7:13-26). Even though this happens first in the previous chapter, it’s important to make sure that you have thought about the ripples and impact on the community. Being in touch with local leaders as well as understanding the filing process is important. (And please contact an attorney for questions about filing, I’m not an expert on the law!) For Ezra to have approval on the plan means he had to first have a plan. As my friend @Christine Soule says frequently, “Be stubborn about the mission, be flexible about the plan.”
- Ezra paused and reflected on the mission (8:15). Worship required Levites once they arrived in Jerusalem. Ezra paused for three days and during that time, he found this key in being ready to tackle the work to fulfill the mission. Keeping the mission the focus of what you and your team will do is critical in the beginning stages—and for the lifetime of the nonprofit. What I find interesting is that this pause to reflect happened while the Jews were already on the road. In other words, they were already on a journey and stopped to double-check they were equipped for the mission. Many nonprofits plan and never do the service, or serve without a plan. Make sure you “start the journey” by serving your target population of clients or members right away and have a path of success for them already laid out in part.
- Ezra hired specialists (8:16-20). When the gap in expertise was evident, Ezra found people who could help. They were already into the journey—already on a mission—when the need became evident. Be careful about hiring too early, but make sure you are aware of the weaknesses of the team.
Many more steps make up the journey, and not all of them were in chapter 8 of Ezra. However, the keys to building the right team, collecting community support, and building a plan kickstarted the journey. Of course, there are moments to pray throughout all these steps.
© 2020, Mollie Bond. All rights reserved. Originally published at www.molliebond.org.