"All organizations start with WHY, but only the great ones keep their WHY clear year after year.” ― Simon Sinek, Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action
We’re barreling toward a new year, with year-end gifts to close — and thank! — and a pile or two of ideas and to-do lists that never quite took flight. After two exhausting years of continuously managing the unexpected, it’s time for a reset.
The wisdom of the ages tells us that winter is a time for rest and renewal. Such a concept seems almost laughable in an age of “always on” connectedness, not to mention a long list of worrisome headlines and the usual stress of the holiday bustle (oh, and your uninterrupted TikTok feed.) But rarely in our lifetimes has the need for such a restorative practice been greater.
The past two years have forced us to rethink how we do nearly every aspect of our work, upending tried-and-true tactics and in many cases challenging the very core of our organizations. As we gear up for a brand-new year — one that already promises to arrive with a new twist of pandemic unpredictability — it’s time to set aside the to-do lists, the busyness, the endless array of distraction, and pause. Because when we do, we not only make room for the mental, emotional, and physical healing from which we all can benefit, we also create space to zoom out for perspective.
And there, resting in the rare silence, lies a key ingredient missing from the all-consuming crush of activity at far too many of our organizations — purpose. With the noise abated and the swirl of activity silenced, we can find it. Rediscover it. Notice the times we placed it center stage in our work and, most likely, see clearly the many other times we didn’t.
The purpose that drives our work is more than a philosophical why to be articulated at the annual team retreat. Purpose is a compass. It guides our overall strategy, yes, and when properly understood it determines all our decisions, day to day and moment to moment. When we reach the proverbial fork in the road, our purpose tells us whether to go left or right — or to chart a completely new path directly forward.
When we face times of challenge and crisis in our organizations, knowing, understanding, and rooting in our purpose is even more essential. Doing so effectively keeps our donors connected and our teams motivated. We’ve seen this play out in unparalleled ways during the pandemic, and those organizations who cut through the chaos to center their work in purpose were the most effective at reinventing to meet the moment. Without it, we’ve seen panic, inaction, and a chorus of “why, why, why did we ever say yes to this?!”
As we prepare to ring in a new year, with all its hope and uncertainty ahead, it’s time to (first, take a break, and then) reengage with the power of purpose-driven work. Gone are the days when donor relations shops become the catch-all for random projects others on the fundraising team think are important but have no interest in doing. Gone are the days of “we’ve always done it this way” and ignoring the question of measurable ROI. The most effective shops of today — and tomorrow — are leveraging purpose to articulate strategy and design tactics.
To help all of us achieve that next level of success, the DRG Group is dedicating 2022 to working holistically. And whether your shop is struggling to find purpose hidden under mounds of meaningless tasks or you’re simply seeking to shine a brighter light on a well-defined why, our new webinar series features something for you. Join us January 11, as we kick off the New Year with a discussion centered on ways to illuminate purpose within your work and your team.
The season ahead may have more surprises in store, but together, we can ground the work we do and the choices we make in an evergreen purpose that keeps our organizations donor-centered and ready for whatever comes next.