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Crisis of Confidence in U.S. Charities

What Are Our REAL Obstacles?

"Lack of money is no obstacle. Lack of an idea is an obstacle."

--Ken Hakuta

I have this quote written on a Post-It, adhered to my laptop as a daily reminder to me of where the real barriers lie. Working with nonprofts, it's easy for me to slip into believing that if only we had more money we could do X. But while I appreciate that lack of resources is a barrier, I always have to remember that it's not an insurmountable one.

Squidoo_logo If you think about it, some of the best, most creative work gets done when we have to operate within constraints. Haiku, for example, has a very rigid form--three lines, 5 syllables in the first, 7 in the second, 5 in the third. Yet you are expected to say so much in those few syllables. Sounds like working at a nonprofit--do much with little.

Surprisingly, creativity can not only survive, it thrives on constraints. Constraints provide focus to problems. They allow us to be clear about what is and isn't there and that can give shape to our solutions.  But we have to be willing to see lack of resources as only a constraint, not as an insurmountable obstacle. We have to be willing to be creative within those constraints rather than throwing up our hands in despair.

I thought about all this as I read an article last night by Seth Godin on "Flipping the Funnel." In the article, Seth shares several very creative ideas about using de.licio.us, blogs and Squidoo with your "fan base" to market your nonprofit and do some fundraising. These strategies cost next to nothing, but they do require you to think differently about how you relate to your fans. (His thoughts about using Squidoo are particularly interesting and I want to do some additional thinking and research about that as a viable strategy for raising money and engaging your donor base. You can also read more about using Squidoo for nonprofits here and here.) 

What struck me the most about all of this was the fact that Seth understands the notion of constraints, while still refusing to be bound by them. He sees constraints as merely challenges to overcome, challenges that he welcomes to some extent. These obstacles have not held him back, they've merely forced him to figure out a better way around them.

I wonder what would happen to us if we were able to see our lack of resources as opportunities to shape creative ideas? What if we moved from thinking that lack of resources was our problem to thinking that our roadblocks may lie in a lack of creative thinking?

Michele

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