What Would You Do With Three Wishes?

Joan M. Renner, CPA, CGMA, Director 501(c)(fit!)

Imagine you’re at your office, cleaning out your supply closet, when you come across a tarnished brass gravy boat.  It’s probably left over from last year’s silent auction.  You decide that before offering it again, you’d better polish it.  You know where this is headed.  You start shining up the brass and suddenly smoke and sparks come out and whoosh!  Your very own genie appears and offers you three wishes for your nonprofit.

What would you wish for?  What would do the most good?  A big sponsor?  Probably.

Well, we might have been daydreaming about the genie, but we can still imagine what we would do to help our organization succeed, if we had three wishes.

In his book, Good to Great, Jim Collins uses an old story about a hedgehog and a fox to illustrate what he learned researching the secrets to success.  From an essay by Isaiah Berlin, Collins explains how the hedgehog succeeds every time the fox tries to spring on him, by focusing on the one thing he does well, rolling up into a spiny little ball.  The hedgehog wins every time.

Collins encourages organizations to be like the hedgehog and focus on the intersection of three spheres: your passion, your unique capability and your ability to drive resources.  He translates his hedgehog concept for the nonprofit world in his monograph, Good to Great and the Social Sectors. 

Can the hedgehog concept guide us in making three wishes to help our nonprofits succeed?

  • Your first wish might be to find your unique capability. What can you be best at in your community?
  • Your second wish might be for mission-related impact. Regardless of your personal passion, what can you do to address a vital need related to your mission?
  • Your third wish might be for inspiration. What can you do that inspires others to follow you and donate their time, talent and treasure?

If your three wishes lead you to focus your organization on using your unique value to meet a real need and inspire people to help you, you will be like the hedgehog, focusing on what you do best.  You will have used your wishes well.

What can we learn?

Infuse these three wishes into your planning.  You’re probably not starting from scratch, but as you plan for the future, focus on what you can do best, what is needed the most and what inspires others.  Learn more at our session Planning for Sustainability—FIT! Strategic Planning for Your Nonprofit at the 2017 FIT! Nonprofits Annual Conference—Sustainability and the FIT Nonprofit; Your Long-Term Staying Power, coming up soon.

Learn more about the Six Strengths of FIT Nonprofits at the 2017 FIT! Nonprofits Annual Conference—Sustainability and the FIT Nonprofit; Your Long-Term Staying Power, coming up soon.

Now, you just have to figure out how to get the genie of the lamp to facilitate your next strategic planning process.

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