Move the needle.

Nonprofits do a lot. They run programs, convene people, and build community around important causes. Nonprofit boards do a lot. They meet, make decisions, and raise money. Nonprofit associations are busy too. They deliver trainings, produce conferences, and advocate for nonprofits. There is no question that the pace of work has increased as nonprofits and everyone associated with them have tried to keep their head above water this past year.

What nonprofit people haven’t had a chance to do lately is ask the one question that could lift our heads up and see a better path forward: What do you want to move the needle on?

The question is bold, inviting vision and courage. It roots in purpose and seeds an emotional connection to the work. It demands conversation to make sure you hear the diverse voices of your community.

It looks something like this:

Nonprofit leaders, how do you want to change the situation in which your nonprofit works? What could you do today to make your organization more financially sustainable a year from now?

Nonprofit board members, what is your larger purpose as an organization? What role do you want to play within the larger cause in which you work?

Nonprofit learning leaders, what do you want to move the needle on in the nonprofit sector? How does that drive your learning strategy? Your conference strategy?

When we think in terms of “moving the needle,” we have to focus our goals and activities. We can better prioritize what to do and what not to do. It also invites us to operate with an “infinite game mindset,” to use the term popularized by Simon Sinek in The Infinite Game. We worry less about competition, positionality, and short-term metrics. We are instead motivated by a vision, inspired by our values, and informed by diverse partnerships that similarly center this kind of transformational change. After a year with our noses to the grindstone, that could be something that refreshes our focus for the work ahead.

What do you want to move the needle on? What difference do you want to see or hear one year from now? What do you need to do today to support that kind of change?

Published by Nancy

I work at the intersection of learning, nonprofits, and leadership. I am a teacher, instructional designer, and nonprofit person who has worn every hat possible. I regular write, speak, and consult on learning strategy, design, and leadership.

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