change lives.

The Wonky Community Economy – a Conundrum Indeed

This is my first foray writing my own thoughts down for public consumption. Please be gentle.

I’ve been fortunate to spend most of my career in the not for profit/non government organization/organisations de but non lucrative sector… you get the picture. Though I love my sector, I really dislike being defined by what we are not. My favourite descriptor to date for the sector is “community based organization” (CBO), but that still falls short.

The Wonky Community Economy – a Conundrum Indeed

Often, people who need our services cannot pay for them; meaning CBOs have to convince others (government, foundations, United Ways, fundraisers) to pay on behalf of their clients.  The majority of funders will only support new projects. This means many services that work fall prey to the shiny new thing. Let’s take a private sector example. Imagine investing in a company who has developed a new product for market. You invest for one year. Just as it begins to demonstrate profitability, you sell your shares. What?  

Hi! My Name is Wendy and I am Overhead

We are charged with trying to solve the most complex issues that exist but we better not spend any money on ‘overhead’. The operative word being head. The head of any organism is the control booth and senses: making sure you’re heading in the right direction, you know where you’ve been, and most importantly if what you are doing WORKS. In any other ‘world’ you would recruit the best possible talent to the toughest jobs. In my world, talent is overhead.

We must be bold

My goal with this blog will be to provide you with a glimpse into my world, into the excellence and the human beauty that I witness everyday. To identify the issues and, if I may be so bold, to offer solutions.

So here is today’s advice from someone who has worked in the sector as a service provider and a funder. I sincerely believe we have enough money to address some tough problems, but we don’t apply the same discipline to charitable giving/granting as we do to our other investments.

Back to the private sector for an analogy; If you find a high performing company, invest.  As long as it keeps performing, keep investing. If it stops performing, and is not likely to produce outcomes, stop investing. Pretty simple right?!  If a community organization is delivering great outcomes, and they are outcomes that matter, keep investing. Don’t be a crow looking for the next shiny thing! 

I’m going to stretch the analogy a little further. When you invest in a company, you don’t ask how much the CEO is spending on paper clips. If you get the performance promised you’re a happy investor. You either have faith in the company and its leadership to produce results or you don’t. Please treat the community sector in the same way. Unless you have oodles of money, don’t spread it too widely. Find organizations and leaders who demonstrate impact and deliver results. Invest heavily and for the long haul. My six Apple shares make me feel good, and they’re getting a good return, but they don’t really amount to much in the long run.