Extract | The Art of Doing Good
The kind of passion it takes, the challenges one has to face and the journey a social entrepreneur makes have their own unique lifecycle. Philanthropists and authors Charles Bronfman and Jeffrey Solomon bring this out beautifully in their book The Art of Doing Good—Where Passion Meets Action.
Outlining how non-profits grow from an idea to a movement, what it takes to sustain something that gives no or little material rewards, tapping into the spirit that drives an effort like this, The Art of Doing Good is a book that offers practical advice and gives an insight into the lives of people working to bring about social change. The authors give a step-by-step introduction to this world, from sources of inspiration, bringing the idea to life, weathering storms, managing people and resources right up to exit strategies.
While Bronfman, from the Seagram corporate family, is chairman of The Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies, with offices in the US, Canada and Israel, Solomon is its president. The duo have previously authored The Art of Giving: Where the Soul Meets a Business Plan, which showed potential philanthropic donors how to approach the world of financial giving in a personal and meaningful way.
In the chapter “What it Takes—Can You Really Do This?”, the authors list questions that will help you reflect before you leap into the world of non-profits. Edited excerpts:
To get right down to it, these are the hard questions you need to ask yourself:
u Am I prepared to stay with this idea for ten years to make it happen? Do I have the attention span?
u What role do I want for myself once the organization is up and running? Chief volunteer officer? Chief professional officer? If it’s the first, my role is to set policy, but not enact it. If it’s the second, I’ll enact policy, but not set it. What is more my style?
u Are other organizations doing what I seek to do? Why am I not contributing to them?
u What does my family think about this? Are they genuinely supportive? Do my friends think I’m crazy? To whom do I turn for advice? Would they be part of my team of advisers? Am I ready to involve them in the decision about whether or not to
go ahead? What if we disagree?
go ahead? What if we disagree?
u Do I know what I will do Day 1? Day 2? Week 2?
u Am I disciplined? Will I give up a small victory now for a more major strategic gain later? Can I hold my tongue?
u Am I mission driven or market driven? What sort of sacrifices am I prepared to make to see my idea through?
u Can I work with others? Am I prepared to share credit? To take blame? Will I be generous with my assets, whether they are in the form of influence, money, or ideas?
u Will I stick with it? Are setbacks likely to throw me off my game? Can I recover—and learn—from defeats? Am I an effective salesperson?
u How am I as a team leader? Can I pick great team members, people who are passionate, talented, witty, vital, and smart? What are my priorities in personnel? Do I want yes-people?
u How do I define success? Can I develop measures to determine if I have achieved it? Do I believe in “getting up to the balcony” to gain a broad view of everything going on? Or do I want to keep my feet on the ground? Can I handle financial reporting? Or know someone who does? Is all the hard work worth it to me? Will the satisfaction be worth the sacrifice?
u How far will I go to pursue this idea? What risks am I prepared to take?
u How do I feel about publicity? Would I be thrilled to be on 60 Minutes, or terrified?
u What is my exit strategy?
This is a very demanding job, and even the most altruistic and well-meaning person may not answer all these questions in the most positive way. But if you find yourself falling short on too many, you might ask yourself whether this non-profit gambit really is for you.
But don’t let us scare you off! Although creating a nonprofit may be hard, it can also be fantastically rewarding. Here, compensation is not measured in dollars. In performing a broad service to humanity, rather than merely generating revenue for a few, you create meaning, identity, and purpose for many. If you succeed, you’ll make the world a better place, and how many people can say that?
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