Two of the main takeaways from our recent Monday Huddle Up reader survey was to provide more “top ten” type lists and to invite in guest writers now. Turns out the timing was perfect and this week you get both – a top ten list from a guest contributor.
We recently reconnected with a longtime friend Danny Heinsohn. If you don’t know Danny’s story, here are the Cliffs Notes… Brain cancer survivor, turned Ironman Triathlete, national award winning philanthropist, professional speaker, author, and non-profit founder. Overall, a rock star in everything that he does.
Danny and I were talking about his foundation in Reno and his vision for its future. He then shared that he had penned an article about the 10 lessons he learned from starting and growing his non-profit, My Hometown Heroes. Their mission is to help bridge the gap between cancer and college, one scholarship at a time.
Here is an abbreviated version of the list…
Do Your Homework – Do other organizations exist that serve the same demographic or similar mission you wish to address? If so, who are they and what is their impact? If the demographic you choose to serve is underfunded or overlooked by existing resources, think about how you can approach things differently.
You Must Have Passion – If you're considering starting a foundation, you must build it around the needs of serving others or improving our planet. You must care so deeply that every time you think about it, you are inspired to take action. Without passion, giving up is easy.
Build From Where You Are Now – Whether it's fitness, running a business or non-profit, or training for a marathon, you can't manage what you don't measure. Measurable progress is everything and the small victories add up.
Learn How to Run A Business – The first 5 years of My Hometown Heroes was a passion project, a hobby more or less. We raised money, we awarded life-changing scholarships, and it felt amazing. But at the end of each year there was very little cash in the bank to speak for. If you want to build a sustainable business you need to learn about business. You also need people to hold you accountable whether it's within your board or an outside advisor.
Build A Team – I knew that if My Hometown Heroes was to survive and become sustainable, I needed to build and scale a team. To start, I identified people who genuinely wanted to help. We grabbed coffee, a beer, or lunch. The first question I ask when identifying potential board members or supporters is. “What are you passionate about?” If their passions and/or expertise align with a need for the organization, that's a great starting point.
Commitment is Everything – If you're not committed, stop reading here. You're done! Commitment is a heavy load when you're starting out. There are so many moving pieces to running an organization, especially when building your team. Board members are volunteering their time and resources to support the mission. If people or businesses are donating or sponsoring your initiatives, you must demonstrate it's worth their while. Without demonstrating commitment yourself, it's difficult for others to commit and buy into your vision or mission.
Learn How to Delegate – Doing everything is a recipe for burnout. Stick with what you're good at and delegate the rest. When you become self-aware of repeatable tasks that you manage, create a job description for what that task is. Find someone on your team, board, or within the community who believes in the mission and has the skill set (or is eager to learn a skill set) to assign that task. You'll be amazed at how much more motivation and creative bandwidth you'll have in the tank to effectively advance other initiatives. Divide and conquer!
Rally Your Tribe (Community Building) – Your board, your team, your committees, your network, your donors, your partners, your sponsors, the beneficiaries of your mission, they are all an integral part of making your charitable organization valuable for the community. They are the lifeblood of your mission. Get the word out. Get people involved. Make it fun. Make it memorable. Make it matter!
Let The Data Do The Talking – As your organization and community grows, more and more people will become interested and will want to learn how they can become involved. Let them know what you do, how your organization makes an impact, why it matters, and how THEY can help. Hint here – data is powerful, use it to support your case where you can.
Make it Sustainable – There are 3 guarantees in life: Death, taxes, and construction. If you want it to last, building a sustainable non-profit or business is always a work in progress. As Steven Covey writes in the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, "Begin with the end in mind." When you're gone what is your legacy? My mission is to leave this world better than I found out. Sustainability means that an organization is able to operate on its own without the founder or founding partners. It's sustainable through robust infrastructure, engaged staff and/or board members, meaningful programs, passionate people, and reliable processes.
Thank you for reading. If you were to add an 11th or 12th lesson what would they be?
Since 2010, My Hometown Heroes has awarded over $250,000 in scholarships to college bound
cancer survivors from across the country. If you want to learn more about Danny and his work,
Hope you liked Danny’s lessons.