I was coaching an enthusiastic and talented client who is at the beginning of her nonprofit career. Given her passion around several issues, she asked if it was better to work for an existing nonprofit or start her own. I couldn’t help but take off my coaching hat and speak from the heart.
I shared that when I launched Teens Run Yonkers (TRY) it felt like a once in a lifetime moment where my work, passions and interest in serving diverged perfectly. I was running in the Philadelphia Marathon in 2008, saw firsthand the impact of Students Run Philly Style (www.studentsrunphilly.org) and was inspired to replicate their program in Yonkers NY, my hometown at the time.
That “entrepreneurial spark” seemed to occur in a singular moment following the marathon. In reality, it was the next step on an accidental but meaningful journey. My nonprofit career began as a funnel with the simple intention to “do good stuff”. My first stop was launching a fundraising operation for a nursing home. From there, my experiences enabled me to narrow my focus to work supporting young people with a special interest in their health. Not a big surprise here as I was born with a congenital heart defect and often questioned my potential.
Just a few years prior to starting “TRY”, I participated in a transformative program called Leadership Westchester. During this nine-month program, I spent time with twenty other leaders understanding our own mission, vision and values while being introduced to the many services in our community. I came away understanding the many opportunities to serve and how I wanted to do so.
Part of the program was doing a service project. Working in partnership with an organization where I served on the board, we created a local model of YouthBuild, a national program that helps young people change their lives through education and training. Unfortunately, our proposed program didn’t receive the funding to launch. While It was frustrating, I now had a taste of what it felt like to create something new with the potential to have a positive impact. Around the same time, I had developed a passion for distance running. Running became “my thing” and I never tired of sharing the joys of it with others.
I probably couldn’t have intentionally created the path I just described. Yet the series of actions and events contain steps worth following in pursuit of creating something entrepreneurial. You can’t force that Entrepreneurial Spark but you can do things to Nurture it. Here’s what I suggest:
Wikipedia describes a Creative Spark as a small but noticeable and desirable quality or feeling. If you really want to find that spark, make sure you are forever nurturing its potential
Robert Grabel is the President of Nonprofit Now! You can find his posts here and at www.robertgrabel.com
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