There is really nothing like the non-profit world. From the outside, this sector might just seem like a group of haphazardly organized groups and individuals that are committed to making the world a better place, an army of well-intentioned folks who work more with our hearts rather than our heads.
And I will be the first to admit, being in this sector, it can feel a lot like herding cats. There are always different ideas to implement and new people to help. Like with most things in life, there is no “one size fits all” approach and it is no different in the non-profit world.
But it was days like one I had this past week that really put all of this into perspective. I was invited to the annual meeting of the Piqua Compassion Network. This lunch was nestled in the nicely furnished basement of St. Paul’s Church and I was warmed to see people of all ages, races and faiths come together to celebrate the good things that are happening in the Piqua community.
Those good things that are happening in the Piqua community are those things you may not consistently hear about. Many times when we hear about the “good things in our community,” we hear about the economic stuff, new businesses or jobs that are coming to town. We also hear about the infrastructure things, too. New roads and schools are often opened up with big cheer. These are wonderful things in our communities and need to be celebrated.
But how about a life that has been saved from a heroin addiction? How about a life that has been transformed where a young person has the skills that will allow them to take care of themselves and their families moving forward? In the two-hour time I was in this lunch, I heard stories of people who made the difficult decision to change. In all honesty, these stories are just as important and are deserving to be celebrated as well.
And in the non-profit world, it’s these stories that sustain so much of the heart-driven and challenging work that people do each and every day to strengthen our communities. And it’s terribly hard work. So many times in the non-profit world we are guided by “measureable outcomes.”
In all honesty, it would be so much easier if non-profits were just in the “output” business. We can measure the numbers of meals we give out, the numbers of classes we put on, the numbers of people of we reach a hand out to each and every day.
But that is not enough. The non-profit world is driven to not just touch, but to transform, the lives of others. And how do you measure that? How do you put a value on a life saved from an addiction? How do you put a value on a life that has dramatically changed? I just don’t think you can.
And not only can you not put a value on those transformed lives, you almost can’t put a value on the work that goes into help transform that life.
It all came full circle to me at that lunch at St. Paul’s Church. There were those who came through difficult times and there are those who are willing to extend a hand to their fellow man and woman to help them through. There was a broad and diverse group of people committed to making their community the best place it can one life at a time.
And as I sat there and pondered the stories being told and the activities being done by a small and mighty group in Piqua, I quickly realized that there are groups in your own hometown that are doing these exact same things.
It doesn’t matter if you live in Piqua, or Troy, or Sidney or Portsmouth or any big city or small town. There are people committed to making their corner of the world the very best place it can be. If you need help, or if you can help, there is a place for you in your own hometown. Find those people helping and there you will find a strong community being built, one life at a time.
William “Bill” Lutz is executive director of The New Path Inc. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.