Advancing Nonprofit Capacity

How Does Your Garden Grow? Lessons for Non-Profits I Have Learned from Gardening

Today’s blog is by Micki Vandeloo, GPC, JWS Associate.
Almost every morning, I immerse myself in admiring how my flowers and vegetable plants are growing.  I love the beauty of flowers in full bloom and healthy vegetables!

However, my garden doesn’t grow by itself.  My beautiful flowers start as seeds.  I plant them in a mini greenhouse and gently water them until they germinate and sprout.  When they are ready, I transfer them into my garden, where I water them every other day, fertilize them at least twice weekly, and pull weeds almost every day.   I also spray them to keep bugs from ruining the beautiful buds.  By tending to them in this way, I am rewarded with beautiful flowers for arrangements or just to admire in the garden.

The work I put into my garden and the rewards that come from that labor are very much like running a nonprofit.  Let me explain this analogy and I think you will agree.

Planting Seeds

Just as my stunning flowers start as simple seeds, every nonprofit starts with an idea.  Someone sees a way to meet a need in the community, or a “seed”, and decides they will start a nonprofit organization to address the need.  They talk with others, who agree the “seed” needs to be planted and germinated to produce an effective solution to the problem at hand.

Tending to the Garden

Once my seeds sprout, I transfer them to the garden.  I work hard to ensure they grow by watering, weeding and spraying for bugs.   My mission is to grow beautiful flowers.

In a nonprofit, once the “seed” has been planted and a new nonprofit has formed, the management team and board don’t just sit back and let the new “plant” fend for itself.    They hire talented people and develop the organization through training and effective leadership.  They resolve conflicts and develop partnerships to increase their capacity to serve.  In this way, they are “tending their garden” and allowing the “seed” to mature.

As in a garden, tending to a nonprofit is where the real work comes in.  There can be bumps along the way, but, by keeping an eye on the mission, the results can be stunning.

Enjoying the Fruits of Our Labor

This is the really fun part!  My garden is currently producing dark red, orange, and pink zinnias and brown eyed Susans.  I have grown the most fun combinations of plants for my arrangements, and enjoy the compliments I receive on their beauty.

For non profits, the results of your hard work and “tending” are even more dramatic.  You help kids learn to read; parents find a home; families mired in poverty become economically stable; and those with disabilities experience the independence they desperately long for.   The beauty that you create far surpasses (and is more permanent) than anything I can grow in my garden!

While I hope you are truly enjoying the fruits of your labor, I know that some days it can seem like the “weeds” have taken over, but take heart, if you continue to work hard and keep your mission in front of you, the beauty will eventually show through!

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