I recently consulted two young people who had an AWESOME idea for a humanitarian service.
It was the best idea I had heard of in quite a while. They came to me to learn how to launch their project. I have some experience in launching nonprofits over the years and they needed some guidance.
I love innovators; creative individuals who put together new and exciting ideas that can serve others.
This dynamic duo had done just that. They already had the correct mindset of successful people; opulent, abundance-minded, and service-oriented. Yet, there was one problem.
They tried to consume the entire thing at once. They didn't take it one bite at a time.
The trouble with many start-ups (humanitarian, non-profit OR for-profit) is that few get going with the concept of incremental growth.
Many entrepreneurs are idealists. They see the glass as half-OVERFLOWING. They love the challenges involved.
These are great traits to have. Further, I doubt a start up will ever turn over their engine without them! However, it is a commitment to longevity that I have found gets a mission on the road to long-term success.
The problem with entrepreneurial idealists (humanitariansl i.e. you AND me) is that we expect exponential growth immediately.
I have never found this to be true. I DO believe in exponential growth. I ALSO believe that it will be based on a foundation, and foundations, I have found, are built incrementally.
Humanitarians, more specifically, DEVELOPMENT humanitarians, rely strongly on good will. That means that, in exchange for donors' good will (their donations), they will be seeking and searching for credibility. They want to know that their investment will bear a return. (That return being credible results in your service.)
Credibility can be felt. And lack of credibility stinks. People can smell a fly-by-night from a mile away.
What does it take to build credibility? Incremental growth. A strong foundation.
A millionaire I worked for called it being "a twenty-year overnight success." He was implying that what the world views as an overnight success is actually the result of incremental growth and foundation building over the long term.
Plan on the long term. I definitely believe that it takes at least a year of planning and preparation before you make your first peep about what you intend to do. Only then will you have the infrastructure in place to make good on promises (and build credibility.)
Do the nitty-gritty tasks that you keep hoping to recruit someone else for.
In terms of our organization, I spent the last year doing short trips to Haiti, some of them alone with no fanfare. No bands welcomed me. Now donations showered upon me.
Even more, it has taken almost 4 years of sowing, sowing, sowing resources into the field and into our own self-education about what Haiti takes. All this took place before I even showed up!
BUT, exponential growth DOES show up overnight. Just now we are seeing e-mail after e-mail asking for more info. New twitter follower after new twitter follower keep adding us. New church partnerships show up.
We see the years of incremental growth. All they see is a semi-finished organization, which happens to look and act exponential.
So, can you get exponential growth? Absolutely.
When will it come? After you have put in the diligence of incremental growth.
What will happen if you skip the incremental growth? You will get a flash-in-the pan success with little-to-no longevity. This works for the person who initiated it, but has very little lasting benefit for others involved.
Dig in. Plan on the long term. (This demands commitment, so count the cost!)