In August, I attended the Global Leadership Summit and heard Angela Lee Duckworth’s presentation on Grit. I was fascinated by the concept and certainly could relate. However, the real inspiration came during my time with a client as we were visiting with a nonprofit supporter and community member.
My client and I were seeking the advice of the community for a proposed $25 million project. During our conversation, the community member made a profound statement. He looked at my client and said “I really admire you. I could not do what you do. The work you do is extremely hard and difficult and fundraising is tough.”
I thought, “Wow, did the CEO of a multi-million-dollar for-profit company just say that?”
This experience renewed my interest in the concept of Grit. At this time of year, many nonprofit staff and volunteers are pushing through year-end activities, wrapping up current year fundraising, preparing budgets, and planning for the next year. Of course it’s also the holiday season with events and activities that require time and attention. Just thinking about all the work can make anyone tired. During times of very challenging circumstances, what is driving the diligence and seemingly tireless efforts of leaders in nonprofit organizations? Grit.
But what is Grit?
As Angela Lee Duckworth describes: it is the power of self-motivation. It is the difference of who is successful and why. Grit is the ability to work in tough or challenging circumstances and persevere. It is the passion and the focus to keep your eye on the prize. It is the determination to accomplish very long-term goals; even those goals that may seem insurmountable.
- G – It takes guts; I like to call this the “Go Get ‘Em” attitude. It is the courage and fortitude needed to have a “Big Picture” vision and the determination to put it out there. Whether it is a vision of new a building to serve more people in the community or a bold increase in an annual campaign goal to provide opportunities for all. It is the stamina and passion to go for it and stick to it.
- R – Resilience is the bounce-back factor. The ability to overcome challenges; to get knocked down and come right back with renewed energy to achieve our goals. We’ve seen this so many times in nonprofit work. A planned collaboration that did not quite come together. An anticipated large donation that was not realized. It is in these circumstances where we find the ability to recover and reset.
- I – Integrity is how one conducts themselves personally and professionally. It is the moral character to lead and act with respect, kindness and honesty. In our nonprofit leaders, there is an unmeasured amount of integrity that sets us apart from other organizations. We are trusted to properly handle donations that will benefit our communities. We are respected for our work and mission to improve lives.
- T – Tenacity is the persistence and drive that keeps us focused without wavering. Holding tenaciously to a purpose, a cause, the course of action to help achieve goals. As nonprofit leaders, we are guiding others to realize the vision of our organization. We are making a case for our cause within our communities. Tenacity will help us guarantee those in the community also have tenacity for our cause.
As the year comes to a close and we are making those last efforts to raise funds, meet goals, cultivate and steward donors, or recruit that special volunteer. We are also facing the challenges, obstacles, exhausting and downright long hard days. However, these challenges can be overshadowed by the sheer joy of serving and making a difference in our communities.
Reflecting on the conversation I had with my client and a community supporter; we know the work we do is “extremely hard and difficult and fundraising is tough.” We know that what we do takes guts, resilience, integrity and tenacity. We embody these traits in our nonprofit work every day. It’s the passion we feel that makes us grittier; to use our failures as learnings, and realize that our work is a marathon not a sprint.
Congratulations: you’ve got grit!