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Our Deepest Fear

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?
Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God.
Your playing small does not serve the world.
There is nothing enlightened about shrinking
so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.
We are all meant to shine, as children do.
We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.
It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.
As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

– by Marianne Williamson from “A Return To Love: Reflections on the Principles of A Course in Miracles”

Three overarching issues top my list of stuff we are getting wrong at the neighborhood level. You tell me if the following rings a bell for you when you examine what organizations are doing at the grass roots level in your city.

* We don’t organize or collaborate effectively with each other
* We have low levels of organizational capacity
* We do not practice disciplined, strategic thinking and planning

In part I of this series, I talked about the first bullet, how we don’t organize or collaborate effectively with each other. This time around, I want to talk a little about how we don’t build capacity for the long term in our organizations. In talking about organizations, I’m referring specifically to 501(c)(3) non profit organizations. Within the black community there are a great multitude of them, engaged in a variety of activities in the public interest. They run the gamut in type and activity from fraternal groups to social service agencies to cultural organizations.

Unfortunately, far too many of these organizations operate at low levels of organizational capacity. These capacity deficits often occur in two key areas: ineffective, anemic fund raising and poor personnel management/utilization.

Many of our organizations have no strategic approach to fundraising at all. Year after year conducting the same year end appeals or fundraisers that have never been analyzed for their effectiveness or profitability. Sometimes poor returns are because the organization lacks a compelling mission or fails to deliver social value, but perhaps as often the issue is the lack of understanding of fund development strategies and tactics. Even more salient, the lack of systems for sustaining or managing the relationships upon which successful fundraising is built is an even bigger problem. No tracking mechanism for keeping up with donors from year to year. No written plan regarding how new donors will be attracted and engaged, etc.

Slack performance due to poor personnel management and selection is an all too common problem as well. It manifests often in two extremes: the retention by boards of directors of executive leadership that is clearly not competent or up to the task or the selection of chief executives who are clearly not a strong fit in the skills required. In either case, the result is tremendous organizational underperformance.

Why is this a problem? Because in a world of scarce resources, the ability of organizations within our community to compete for resources and utilize them effectively rests on their skill and effectiveness in fund development and the recruitment and deployment of capable personnel. These are challenges common to all organizations, not just those in the black community, but poor performance by organizations in these areas is all too common within the black community. Until we begin to systematically raise performance in these areas, we’ll have organizations that underperform their missions.

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