Building the Future of an Organization: Dreams I’ll Never See
I love music—I listen to it all the time. I usually listen to soft rock on the way to work and classical music when I am alone in the office before the day begins. On my way home in the car, I channel surf through the decades of rock and roll. When I work out on the bike, I put on earphones and crank up rock music. Many times I will listen to southern rock. My dream always has been to be the lead guitarist and singer in a band. My best friend in high school played saxophone in a band. I was just a groupie watching him, but totally enjoyed the experience.
While listening to music, I also relate to song titles. I can relate many of these titles to my past, present and possible future life. I am not a dreamer, but once in a long while, I get in the dreamer mood. One song I recently listened to was a hit by Molly Hatchet, a southern rock group from Florida, called “Dreams I’ll Never See.”
I recently attended a service-club lunch. I volunteered to lead the National Anthem and Pledge of Allegiance. Unfortunately, I volunteered for this assignment before I caught a bad cold and could not even talk. Luckily, other singers in the attending group sang loud and proud and helped me.
At this particular service club, there is a weekly guest speaker. The speaker on this day was the new president of a health care system. He was outstanding in his presentation. The interesting part of this for me is that he represented the same system I represented for 16 years, 10 years earlier. I was proud of my tenure there and loved working in that exciting environment. I directed a number of capital campaigns for that organization. No one will remember my contributions, but I will. In many ways I was creating a future through these campaigns that I will never fully experience. The speaker pointed out many facilities I helped build through capital campaigns that are fully functional today.
I think of many activities that I personally have experienced. I also think of those that I would have liked to enjoy.
Some examples for me are:
- I played on two state-championship football teams in high school. The next year, after I left, the team won a third straight championship. I wanted to be on that team!
- I received a competitive nomination to the U.S. Naval Academy my senior year in high school. I so wanted to be a naval officer, but the academy picked two from a group of five. I was not picked.
- I have cultivated, stewarded and solicited many individuals in my past. One individual in particular made a several-million-dollar gift to the health care organization I represented shortly after I left for another position. I worked for 10 years to get that particular gift. I was happy that the gift finally was made but no one knew the years of work behind the scenes to “tee him up.”
- I built a wonderful board of directors at an organization only to leave and see the board and organization thrive after my departure. It took 15 years to get that AAA board in place!
- I have hired many staff at my past jobs and did my best to train and mentor them. In so many cases, I never totally enjoyed the benefit of watching them have career success.
I am a realist and live for today. People around me can attest that I always look ahead—not back. As a result, there are so many dreams in the nonprofit field I’ll never see. The same is true for you. Do your best to plant seeds and live in the moment. You hope all of your efforts with prospects, volunteers, board, administration and others ultimately will bear fruit during your tenure. The simple fact is many times results have a different timetable. Keep working hard and understand dreams are being created that you will never see to enjoy. Take enjoyment in the fact that your work will pay off now or later, and all we should truly care about is a positive end result of fulfilling our institutional mission.
Duke has extensive experience as a nonprofit practitioner, author, lecturer and consultant. He has been a contributing author to NonProfit PRO for the last 11 years. He has been a long-standing member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals where he was previously named the AFP Indiana Chapter Fundraising Executive of the Year and has held the CFRE designation for many years.
He received his doctorate degree from West Virginia University with an emphasis in education administration, master's degree from Marshall University with an emphasis in public administration and a bachelor's degree from West Virginia University with an emphasis in marketing/management. He has also completed post graduate work at the University of Louisville.
He is currently executive director of development for The Salvation Army Indiana Division in Indianapolis, Indiana. Contact Duke at firstname.lastname@example.org or 317-224-1029.