Volunteers Are Rainbows: Capitalizing on Diversity

I am an Activate Good intern, writing the third post for a blog series about the five leadership challenges for nonprofits and how they relate to the wonderful word of volunteerism. For a quick recap, the five leadership challenges correspond with the core characteristics of the nonprofit sector (e.g., being mission based, accomplishing some social good, their tax exemption status) and affects almost all nonprofits no matter their size or their mission. We already visited a few of the other leadership challenges: aligning mission, methods, and resources and moving beyond charity to systematic change. Now it’s time to explore the fourth challenge, which is capitalizing on opportunities associated with diversity. Sunday I was driving a friend back to Burlington from Raleigh on I-40. Nothing against the interstate or my friend, but I’ve made the trek on that interstate many times as a North Carolina native, and I get so bored with the seemingly endless row of green trees and the swarm of cars. On my way back to Raleigh, it started to rain (of course). When I got to Chapel Hill, the sun came out and a rainbow emerged. The opaque yet colorful picture in the sky added new scenery to this drive that had personally become so mundane. What do my thoughts about I-40, trees, and rainbows have to do with nonprofits capitalizing on opportunities associated with diversity? Rainbows are vibrant because they are composed of different colors. Trees are essential to the environment and society, similar to how nonprofits are important structures in our civil society. Nonprofit organizations thrive when people from various backgrounds come together to...

Taking it Back to Basics with the Big M

For the next part in this blog series, let’s take it back to the nonprofit basics with the all-powerful mission statement. If you are now stumbling on this post or if you have just forgotten about my first two posts, I am an Activate Good intern, writing a blog series about the five leadership challenges for nonprofits and how they relate to the wonderful world of volunteerism. For a quick recap, the five leadership challenges correspond with the core characteristics of the nonprofit sector (e.g., being mission based, accomplishing some social good, their tax exemption status) and affects almost all nonprofits no matter their size or their mission. We already visited the leadership challenge of moving beyond charity to systemic change with the help of our fishing friends in the last post, so let’s now tackle the first leadership challenge of aligning mission, methods and resources. M is for Mission One of the fundamental characteristics of nonprofit organizations that set them apart from their for-profit counterparts is that they are mission-driven rather than being profit-driven. The mission is the overarching purpose of a nonprofit, which often includes the work that they perform, why they were created and whom they serve. To put it another way, if mission statements became people, they would be self-centered and expect the world to revolve around them. In the nonprofit world, operations of nonprofit organizations really should revolve around their missions.  The mission serves as the guide light for staff, board members and volunteers. Now, methods are the means – programs, activities, and services – for how nonprofits accomplish their missions. But nonprofits rely...

The Fisherman, the Old Wise Tale, and the Fifth Leadership Challenge

Keep this famous little saying in mind: “Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.” Imagine you are the fisherman faced with this decision after being approached by this man. Which decision would you make? Would you just give him a fish and go on your way, or would you take the time to teach him how to fish? Hold that thought for what is to follow. Recap: The 5 Leadership Challenges If you haven’t read my first blog post, my name is Kay McMillan and I am an intern at Activate Good. I am writing a five part series about the core leadership challenges facing nonprofits and how volunteers can help with these challenges. To give a quick recap, the five leadership challenges correspond with the core characteristics of the nonprofit sector (e.g., being mission based, accomplishing some social good, their tax exemption status) and affects almost all nonprofits no matter their size or their mission. As promised in my first post, we are going to now tackle the last challenge: moving beyond charity to systemic change.     Charity vs. Systemic Change: What’s the best way to make a difference? Time to go back to our fisherman and homeless dude and relate them back to charity and systemic change. Charity is like the first option in our analogy – giving the man a fish – which is an immediate relief to alleviate suffering – hunger, in this case. Whereas charity treats the symptoms of the problem, systemic change addresses the root...

The Woman Behind the Computer Screen… The New Kid at Activate Good

Greetings readers of the Activate Good blog! Whether you are a consistent reader or just stumbled across this post, my name is Kay McMillan and I am one of the summer interns for Activate Good. I am a second year senior at NC State, majoring in Political Science with minors in accounting and nonprofit studies (which explains why I am a second year senior). I have been charged with the task of writing for Activate Good’s blog. I am pleased to announce that I will be writing a five-part blog series on something that college has ingrained in my brain as a nonprofit studies minor – “the five leadership challenges for nonprofits” – and how they relate to the wonderful world of volunteerism. The Five Leadership Challenges for Nonprofits You might ask, what the heck are the five leadership challenges for nonprofits? A crash course in Nonprofit Studies: These challenges correspond with the core characteristics of the nonprofit sector (e.g., being mission based, accomplishing some social good, their tax exemption status) and affects almost all nonprofits – no matter their size or their mission. The five challenges are as follows: earning the public trust; aligning mission, methods, and resources; capitalizing on issues associated with diversity; balancing individual interests and common good; moving beyond charity to systemic change. It isn’t any fun to start in order, so let’s start the next blog with the last one: moving beyond charity to systemic change.     How Volunteers fit into the leadership challenges How are these five leadership challenges applicable to volunteers? Hopefully the answer will become apparent in my subsequent posts, but...