Tag Archives: nonprofit

The Unbalanced Can “Change the World” Too

WBWC CoversWhen I heard I heard about Sarah Raymond Cunningham’s new book, I thought two things:

I’ll bet it’s a good book because she’s a talented writer with real experience serving others.

I’ll bet guys like me who run away from the title “World Changer” won’t read it.

In light of that, I asked Sarah some tough questions about her book and invited her to respond. I think you’ll be encouraged by what Sarah has to say:

Ed recently asked me an interesting question about my new book, The Well Balanced World Changer: A Field Guide For Staying Sane While Doing Good.

I’m the total opposite of a visionary. I’m more of the worker bee who lives in the details.” He said in a very kind, unassuming, Ed-like way. “I hear a lot about books like Radical where ordinary people do these amazing things for God, but I’m not wired like that. I would love your thoughts on what those of us not cut out to be leaders can do about being world changers.”

To this I say, Ed (and dear friends who think like Ed), let me first apologize that we so often talk about leadership as if it is such a narrow pursuit that it does not include people who wear their dreams differently than we do.

So you’re not Type A, you’re introverted, you’re not so head-in-the-clouds, pie-in-the-sky, or not-so-whatever-else.

Not only is there plenty of room for you in this conversation, there is a sincere need for you.

The Unique Gifts You Bring to the Table

I come to this conversation believing A. wisdom improves every facet of life and every kind of personality type and B. that no one person or personality type has the corner on wisdom.

Rather, it is only when diverse groups of people are willing to share their best learnings that we can find a well-balanced approach to living. Collectively, through the beauty of diverse perspectives, people with different types of “wiring” help each other live smarter, love deeper, walk taller, stride more confidently and enjoy more peace than any individual or single group would alone.

The sticky insights in this book came from people with all different kinds of personality types and giftings. As a result, I think they stand a good chance of benefitting a diverse range of people too.

In All of Our Differences, We Are Also Alike

Even though we have different temperaments, there are often still similarities in our journeys. Extroverts and introverts, Type A’s, B’s, or C’s, right-brained or left-brained, we can all benefit from setting a healthy pace, having realistic expectations, and learning how to recognize burnout, for example.

But let me draw some of the principles from this book that better explain why the pursuit of being a “Well Balanced World Changer” belongs equally to those who don’t identify as typical leaders.

One of the best ways to change the world is to take the responsibility to first change ourselves. If everyone owned the details of our personal journeys, we would collectively—via almost a domino effect—send ripples of change through our culture. Expending our energy modeling change is often more authentic and inspiring than demanding change of others.

It’s actually unhealthy to do too many things at once. You know those amazing illusionists who juggle knives, fire, pots and pans, everything? If you watch closely, as they juggle, they usually set some objects down as new objects are added to the cycle. Those who are not trying to change the world may actually be better at managing their time or workloads because they are working on a more focused task rather than trying to take on the needs of the entire galaxy.

A more personal or localized focus may help us avoid Tyranny of the Outward. The more ambitious we become and the more we achieve in the public eye, the more likely we are to let public affirmation rather than conscience direct our efforts. Those who are less drawn to the spotlight to begin with might be more aware of their own motives and therefore more likely to do what seems right to them rather than what they believe might provoke the most applause.

A big part of self-management is refusing to take on the drama of others. If you have less of a super-hero complex, you may be better at drawing boundaries in your own lives. We often get depleted and dried up when we start to go beyond just helping bear others’ burdens to living their emotions as well. If we took on the emotional drama of everyone we know, we would be living our own bad days as well as their own.

Granted, just as those who don’t identify as traditional leaders may have certain advantages, they may also be prone to certain disadvantages and this is where certain portions of the book—about taking risks or releasing control—may encourage new life rhythms that lend health and balance to their natural predispositions as well.

Learn More about Sarah’s Book

The Well Balanced World Changer is available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever books are sold. You can also find great shareable content like the graphic below at her book’s Pinterest page. And you can contribute your own life lessons to an online collection of wisdom using the hashtag #worldchangerbook.

IMG_9286Sarah is an author, idea junkie, and Chief Servant to the four year old Emperor and his one year old Chief of Staff. She has written five books and and has helped produce some notable Christian and humanitarian-minded events. You can find her blog at sarahcunningham.org.

What We Communicate When We Don’t Follow Through

inbox

About a year ago a Christian organization sent me an e-newsletter asking for help. They needed people who understood writing and websites. It was a natural fit for me, and so I volunteered.

I heard back within a day: “We’ll be in touch!”

That was the last I heard from them.

A few months later a similar appeal appeared in their next newsletter. I archived it without giving it much thought, and that has been bugging me lately. Perhaps they really did need help. In addition, what was going through my mind when they didn’t reply to my offer to help?

I’ll bet that this has either happened to you or that you may have failed to follow through with someone. I used to work in Vermont’s nonprofit sector, and believe me, there are lots of nonprofits that are long on passion and short on communication and organization.

I want to see churches, Christian ministries, and nonprofits succeed, so I thought it would help to unpack what we say to people when we don’t follow through on a call for help. In order to avoid calling any names, I’d like to use the fictitious Save the Cheese Campaign as my example because we all know that a world without cheese would be a very sad place.

The Message

Let’s say a message arrives in my inbox one day that says something like this:

“Thanks for signing up for the Save the Cheese Campaign e-newsletter. Studies show that cheese has never been more in DANGER. We need your help spreading the word about our important work. We need artists, poets, web designers, writers, rabbit owners, and anyone with an unpronounceable Americanized Polish last name to join our team. Contact us today! It’s urgent! Don’t let them cut our cheese!!!!”

I read such a note and say, hey, I can help! So I write an e-mail and hear nothing back. This is what I start to think:

You Suck

After sending them an e-mail with my credentials and hearing nothing back, I’m left to imagine that they just think I suck. I start to imagine someone at the Save the Cheese Campaign writing something like this:

“Dear Mr. Cyzewski:

It has come to our attention that you desire to help the Save the Cheese Campaign, but upon reviewing your experience and credentials we have found that you are no where near cheesy or competent enough to do us or our threatened cheese any good. Have you considered a career as a traffic cone? We actually hold you in such low esteem that after completing this note, I will crumple it up and toss it into a trash can where you will never find it, adding yet another uncertainty to your disappointing, meaningless drift through a cruel and uncaring world that will soon be without cheese because of driveling fools like you.

Yours Cordially,

Daphne Wensleydale”

That is the worst case scenario for me, but there are some other things organizations could say by failing to communicate…

We’re Not Important

If I don’t hear back from an organization that asked for my help, I could also think that this organization isn’t doing work that is important or urgent. I mean, maybe cheese isn’t endangered after all? The supermarkets are stocked with cheese after all and there seem to be plenty of cows about.

The “we’re not important” message will lead to me delete future e-mails from such an organization. But I’d delete future messages from the Save the Cheese Campaign for another reason…

We’re Disorganized

Having worked in nonprofits, I know that business training is not necessarily a high priority in some organizations. If someone can’t figure out how to follow through on the responses to a request for help, then the organization could be quite disorganized and difficult to work with.

Use spreadsheets people!

The Save the Cheese Campaign should be able to figure out how to send me a generic message saying something like, “Thanks for getting in touch with us. We value your willingness to help, but the response from our friends was so overwhelming that we’re all set for now. The Cheese will be saved for now, but please keep us in mind for the future.”

The inability to send so simple a message tells me that the Save the Cheese Campaign will be a poor partner to work with for my volunteer time. I want to be effective and helpful, but I’d suspect that if they ever do follow through, they’ll be sending me urgent stuff to edit at 6 pm on a Friday and never think to say thanks afterward.

We Communicate Something When We Fail to Communicate

I write all of this to say that failing to follow up in our communication can send the worst message. I know I’ve failed to follow up on some e-mails with folks, and I regret the messages I’ve sent without thinking. Communication fills in gaps and connects us with others.

When something life-changing or justice-related is on the line, consistent communication is all the more critical. Whether you’re recruiting volunteers at your church or getting in touch with a nonprofit to volunteer, the ability to follow through effectively can really make or break your ministry and service.

I put together my Save the Cheese campaign parody to help the “ignored” folks such as myself to also rethink our reactions to organizations that fail to follow up. Organizations are run by imperfect people who are sometimes swamped and over capacity. They may deserve the benefit of a doubt.

As for me, I won’t give the Save the Cheese Campaign another second of my time.