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When I started Neighbor, our focus was anyone and everyone that needed our branding services. We found success in working with clients across many different industries, doing many types of work. It was fun and engaging as we learned how to serve those clients. I noticed that a few projects would come through that didn’t operate or fit in with the predefinition of projects which Neighbor takes. However, these clients came to us in need of help. And at the root of Neighbor’s mission was to serve our clients above and beyond.

Neighbor took on a few of these clients, for better or worse, and I am thankful for having done this. The lessons I’ve learned are from the non-profits that we have been able to work with, but they expand beyond just the non-profit world and can be applied so much further.

The People Behind the Mission

There are so many amazing people, doing so many amazing things. Leadership in non-profits have stepped into a position that balances the line between empathy and caring for the people they serve and the near daunting task of making sure their work is funded. This is noble work connecting those dots. As leadership navigates that balance, as someone providing a service for them, it is my role to be understanding, clear, and patient with the process.

I find this to be a rule across all industries, but especially with non-profits. It is not their job to educate me on their workings, it is my responsibility to listen, learn, and act on their needs. The key here is empathy for those doing the work of serving others.

When my focus is on the people behind the mission, great things happen. Connections are made. Great work is produced but even more importantly, people are served. Allowing the organization to continue moving forward, supporting their efforts with adaptability, a partnership is formed that transcends the transactional nature of B2B work.

Focus on the people!

Money Moves Things Forward

This is the rub, right. In all things, money is primarily the driver. In a commercial effort, this is the goal. Drive sales to make a profit. Likewise, in the non-profit world, money is a driver. Without funds, the work rarely gets done. With that thought, there is a difference. Many people, if not all, doing work that seeks to serve needs, are often hesitant in asking for money. We all know the need for that, but the distinction is that the donator does not receive anything in return. An often difficult and awkward task.

I have found in my interactions that when I am adaptable with my expectation on the transactional side of the business, the work is fruitful and produces great things. While money drives the work, the action moves quickly. At Neighbor, I like to move things into action, so the work gets done.

One last thing on money; ask, ask, ask! There are a plethora of people willing and interested in helping an organization move forward. We are in a country with an abundance of funds and resources, but if the ask is not there, no one will act. Ask for the money. And if that person can’t ask for an introduction to someone who might be able to help.

Patience

Similar to being patient with the people in leadership, patience in getting things done is necessary. There are usually more moving parts in non-profit organizations that cause the work to move a bit slower. Be patient in the process. Patience allows you to be more creative in the approach you take in getting things done.

Also, patience with the response to the work of a non-profit is necessary. Many times, it often goes unnoticed. Commitment to the work is more important and at the right time resources and assistance come in floods. I have also noticed that these floods come in waves. There will be a large amount of support and then it will wane. Be patient in that process, as well.

For Neighbor, I have established a process that integrates with each of our client’s needs. Often, you will find agencies have their process and for them, it works to keep things organized that way. But that quickly leads to the work of the organization suffering and the service we provide as well. The world of non-profits is messy, not always fitting into predefined processes. That’s why Neighbor seeks flexibility and adaptability.

Keep Pushing & Keep Asking

While this may seem like a reiteration, and it slightly is, however, it is probably the most important lesson learned from non-profits. Don’t wait to do the work. The reward will come. Keep pushing. When you do the work, people will begin to notice. When people notice, people become willing to help.

Don’t hesitate to ask. Asking opens doors. Asking gets the word out. And when you ask, people, again, begin to notice and begin to help. Keep pushing and keep asking.

Find Your Ally

Following up on the last lesson, you will naturally find an ally. Find yours and hold onto them for as long as you can. That ally will be a beacon for you as you continue to do the work. They will be your megaphone, your guiding light, your leads to connections and so much more.

One thing I have noticed is that those allies amplify to degrees beyond comprehension. Your ally will be willing to go above and beyond the call. When they do, they pull people in, leading to more allies.

For Neighbor, naturally, I like to show off the work we do. It is in our nature to be an ally for all of our clients. Part of our process is to find the best way we can be an ally for the organizations we work with.

There are many more lessons I have learned and as I learn more about those lessons, I hope to share them with you all again. As I mentioned at the beginning, these lessons are learned from my experiences with non-profits, but the root of the lesson can be applied to any industry or type of work. It is my joy and honor to be able to work so many amazing people seeking to serve.

Neighbor’s mission is to do just that. Serve those serving others. And as an ally for the organizations, I work with, I want to amplify their stories. Compassion, empathy, and care for others is the heart of non-profit work. If you are willing, help Neighbor helps others by becoming an ally yourself.