Many of us experienced the end of the fiscal year on June 30th. Before taking a well deserved vacation, this is a great time for catching our breath and re-assessing our position. Some of what I’m currently reading, Seth Godin’s new book, The Dip: A Little Book That Teaches You When to Quit (and When to Stick), may provide a great launching point.
In a very brief summary, Godin posits that all worthwhile endeavors go through “The Dip.” The Dip helps sort half-hearted attempts from the truly world-class efforts. “Most consumers…,” writes Godin, “wait for something to be standardized, tested, inexpensive, and ready for prime time” (p. 48). You may be popular with a few early adopters, but to be “best in the world,” you need to go through the Dip, as hard as it may be. Only after proving yourself, will others feel comfortable joining you or donating to your cause.
This is so important to us in the nonprofit world. As I told my new friends at the Lowcountry Chapter of the AFP, we’re all in this world because we’re passionate about our cause. We love helping kids, feeding the hungry, healing the sick, spreading social justice, helping women start businesses, providing excellent arts, preserving land…and doing what we all do.
The causes are so good, we feel we shouldn’t need to fundraise. People should just “get it.” If they don’t, they should be able to come to their senses based on a website or a brochure.
But that isn’t how it happens, is it?
Incredible as it may be to us, people aren’t throwing money at our cause. Or if our cause is huge, it may seem that everyone is giving to that other organization rather than us.
According to Godin, this is where we need to decide if we’re in a Dip or a Cul-de-sac. A cul-de-sac is a dead end; a Dip is simply part of the journey. You’re in a cul-de-sac if you can’t become the “best in the world” at what you do.
Take some time to think of what your “world” is. Can you be best in the world at it? If not, you’re in a dead end.
The only thing to do in a dead end is to quit. Well, the only sane thing. Unfortunately, most of us prefer to endure the persistent pain of mediocrity rather than pressing on to greatness. But people and organizations that make the greatest difference, and reap the greatest rewards, are those that are “superstars,” best in the world.
Quitting takes guts. But if you’re in a cul-de-sac quitting is a very real, and can be an incredibly freeing, option.
If you’re not in a cul-de-sac, you’re in the Dip. Quitting in the dip would be incredibly dumb. You’ve come too far to give up now. If you find yourself in the Dip, the only sensible thing to do is to press on and push through. When you come out on the other side, you’ll be one of the very few organizations that will have come through the Dip. And you’ll be reaping the rewards of being world-class, including getting to help the people you help in more ways than you ever thought possible.
In our next issue, we’ll look more at committing to going through the dip. But for now, ask yourself:
Can you be best of the world at what your doing?
What is so special about your nonprofit? How can it be best in the world?
While you’re at it, what is your world?