Planning sessions with the Co-Chairs had shifted into high gear. Especially this session. On the agenda: deciding who would be the honoree at next year's fundraising event. Halfway through the discussion, one of the Co-Chairs spoke up. "You know, this really comes down to relevance. We can make a statement about the organization's critically important role in society. And correlate its significance with some of the great concerns and causes of our day."
When this Co-Chair spoke, a well-known civic leader and trustee on several nonprofit boards in our city, people listened. And we listened, ending up selecting an honoree whose prestige and body of work was known around the world. In a field dedicated to transformational breakthroughs on behalf of humankind.
No small feat, as the honoree was Nobel Prize worthy. Moving in spheres of influence beyond our reach. Attracting the adulation of movers and shakers. Associated with the leading institutions in the nation. Through the good graces and sheer genius of that Co-Chair and her cohorts, the invitation was extended to the distinguished luminary---and duly accepted.
A year later, the honoree stood at the podium and gave an explicit endorsement of our nonprofit's role in society. We were grateful, realizing the importance of that moment, that mention of relevance. In the audience were power brokers, thought leaders and transformational donors who knew and respected this honoree. They were listening. But were they making conceptual correlations regarding the significance of our mission alongside the stellar accomplishments of the honoree? Was our relevancy apparent to the audience?
Relevancy is certainly more than a shared moment in the spotlight. Much more involved than an emphatic endorsement from a person who is indisputably relevant. Miles removed from relevance by association.
Every nonprofit on the block knows they are relevant to their direct beneficiaries and participants. By virtue of their outreach and by varying and incremental degrees, a nonprofit also adds value to the community-at-large. The merit of worthwhile programs, projects and pursuits is indisputable. Rest assured. If that is your nonprofit, your relevance is noteworthy. Noble. Non-negotiable. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise, or shame the scale of your service.
But should your nonprofit aspire to shift into a higher gear of relevance, it will be necessary to adjust your perspective. From another altitude. Let's say 20,000 miles up, circling the globe. From here you will gain an appropriate viewpoint to vet your claim of broader relevancy. To test the efficacy of your evolved notion. To scrutinize the mechanics of your solution, should it be scaled universally. To consider the implications, consequences and ramifications of actually incarnating your ideas. Fleshing out your ideals. Actualizing your ideologies. For the masses.
No small feat, this coming to terms with the possibility of broader relevancy. Once you grasp this, then brace yourself to be gripped with the enormity, even the morality of being relevant on a larger scale.
At present the masses may not correlate the significance of your organization with the great concerns and causes of the day. Nevertheless, they are gripped by a vice your nonprofit could conquer. Locked out by a code your agency could decipher. Stricken by a malady your institution could cure. Puzzled by a riddle your organization could solve.
They just don't know it yet.
Relevancy. You can infer it, or state such. But when the verdict is in and your claim is validated, then they will know. And when they know, fair warning. Relevance means the world will be waiting for your nonprofit to come to their rescue. To reverse gravity. Now. Should you be slow, circumspect and measured in coming to their rescue, the masses will come knocking at your front door. Or stampeding through it.
Are you up to this? Past the headlines and headiness of broader relevancy is the heavy-duty onus that your organization must own. For if, indeed, you can conquer the vice, decipher the code, cure the malady or solve the riddle, then you are responsible for relevancy in the most moral sense of the word. It will be your bounden duty to build and broker the collaborations. Determine how best to dispense, disseminate and expedite delivery. Insist that the most equitable and ethical standards are applied. Be resolute as you steward your nonprofit's standing on that "right side of history," and be ready to share the glory with all. For all. For all time.
Think long and hard before you claim a broader relevancy. Think long and hard, for you have a moral imperative to claim this. If, indeed, you can conquer the vice. Decipher the code. Cure the malady. Solve the riddle. For the masses. For all. For all time.
Follow @JoeMazzu3 on Twitter and Instagram. Visit intentionalconsulting.com to learn more about his business serving nonprofits.