When Only Long-Term Wins Exist

Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.

Philippians 3:19-21

Starting a nonprofit is hard work. The inspiration strikes, the vision won’t shake loose, the mission can engrain itself into daily life. So, we start a nonprofit. And then, it gets hard. The inspiration dulls. The vision seems further away than ever, and the daily to-do list gets longer and makes life drudgery. Then, the nonprofit loses its board’s engagement, the CEO retires in place, and ultimately, those served no longer come and the nonprofit fails its mission. When a nonprofit that starts with big dreams doesn’t see those dreams fulfilled in the first year or two, people start to lose hope.

It’s very similar to the Dunning-Kruger effect. When we begin something, we have high confidence, but low wisdom. As time goes on, our wisdom grows, but Dunning and Kruger say our confidence falters. See the graph below. 

When your confidence wanes and the vision seems further away, that’s when to turn to Philippians 3:19-21. When the “honeymoon” period is over, the grueling day-to-day demands may not seem to be providing forward motion. And then, it’s easy to get caught up in the here and now, just striving toward the next thing, the next demand, the next meeting. But we have something higher to reach for and longer-term. The fulfillment of the promise in Philippians 3 may, in fact, take centuries.

As a more practical hint, it’s important to wait about 3 years before calling a program or fundraising effort or event unsuccessful. It takes time for the initial inspiration to settle. 

I once had a friend who said that there were people who started things and those that maintained things. Those people that maintained were those who were steady, loyal, and had the skill to maintain things. If you are a starter, let these verses challenge you to keep your eye on that magnificent vision, knowing that heaven is looking forward to your work. And, if you are a maintainer, be encouraged that starters can’t live without you. You keep the mission and vision alive when there’s not an immediate win and when all the low-hanging fruit has been plucked. You keep everyone going in the slump of the Dunning-Kruger model. 

And in the meantime, have patience with staff, volunteers, board members, and even ourselves in the fulfillment of the mission and vision of the nonprofit. 

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© 2021, Mollie Bond. All rights reserved. Originally published at www.molliebond.org.

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