I promise, this is not about finding the fountain of youth. But I think this is on the minds of most nonprofit leaders right now. At face value, we are afraid that our supporters will retire, die, lose their capacity to give money. On a deeper level, I think we are afraid of facing our own mortality, of becoming irrelevant. And if we could only grow younger, that wouldn’t happen to us or to our organizations.
Another leader in the network told me recently, “We are seeking out a strong brand.” I think growing younger and a strong brand are related. A strong brand is about being relevant. It is about having a story that is worth telling and telling it well. It is making helpful promises to our constituents that we can keep. A strong brand is what draws people to our mission and gives us the courage and capacity to carry it out. It attracts donors. It attracts high quality employees. It gives us meaning. Or, in the words of another network leader, “The passionate 2% will always outperform the indifferent 98%.” We want to show up in our lives with passion because that is the identity we imagine for ourselves.
And passion is not always enough, all by itself. My two-year-old granddaughter is frequently very passionate about what she does and doesn’t want, for example. She doesn’t always get her way, thankfully. Another network leader put it this way, “Justification doesn’t make people less stupid.” Justification is the seed of Holy Spirit planted in our spirits. Sanctification is the fruit of Holy Spirit wisdom, sometimes hard-won, often slow, and maturing over long periods of time. Most of us are not young by the time the results of sanctification begin to show in our lives.
So, do we need to grow younger, more passionate, or wiser? The answer is probably yes to all three. Ultimately, we need to grow into the identity, or the unique brand, that God intended us to embody. How are you doing that for your organization?