Purpose can be a stumbling block for many organizations. The dictionary gives two meanings for the word: 1. reason and 2. intention. This simple word can often cause us so much pain because our reasons and intentions can be misaligned without us realizing it. Every nonprofit was founded for a reason, and every person has a reason why they choose to work at an organization.
I have seen these various reasons be the root of so many problems in our industry. For many people, their job is a means to an end and not their real aspiration in life. In contrast, I can’t tell you how many people I’ve had the privilege to work with in the nonprofit industry that see their purpose as making the world a better place through their job. A job in our industry fuels meaning, deepens passions, and evolves over time. While some people volunteer to give back, nonprofit people make that kind of ambition an everyday action.
This means aligning your organization’s “why” with a person’s “why” is critical. Anyone can put their own spin on your organization if you lack clarity on your purpose. Mission and vision statements are great starts but are designed for external stakeholders. Internally, employees will create a connection between what drives them personally to the mission of the organization in order to rationalize their affiliation, even if the two objectives aren’t necessarily on the same page.
While it’s nice to think that every new hire accepts a job with zeal, the reality is sometimes people just need a job. Not everyone has the luxury to take the time to pick and choose based on their life goals. But that doesn’t mean a person can’t genuinely connect and find meaning in the work they were hired to do. Because of this, it’s imperative that organizational purpose isn’t something to only address during the hiring process, but, instead, should be a constant dialogue for all employees.
Organizations that can clearly articulate their purpose enjoy higher growth and create deeper impact. The connection between this and success is obvious, but the disconnect between a person’s passion and an organization’s intention is not. To remedy this, start by clarifying your organization’s objective and ingraining it into your everyday. Hire and retain people that exhibit the same determination as your organization and allow them to inspire more people. Creating meaningful relationships between colleagues based on a collective passion for the purpose of your organization will allow you to nurture and grow both employees and the organization as a whole.