Overcoming Fear of Failure Can Change the World

by | Sep 29, 2020

A nonprofit sector strategist I follow writes a blog called Socialtrend Spotter. Suzanne Smith, author, founder and CEO of Social Impact Architects, often provides excellent insight and suggestions for her readers. She speaks directly into the most immediate struggles nonprofit organizations face daily.

In Suzanne’s recent blog, she uses the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg to set the stage for a discussion about the value of failure in the nonprofit sector. As Suzanne tells us, regardless of which side of the aisle you favor, the lessons we learn from her are priceless.

As witnesses to her extraordinary achievements, fiery dissents and remarkable life, we learned that if you keep a steadfast focus on your mission, learn from your mistakes and course-correct when needed, you never really fail. (from the Socialtrend Spotter, September 23, 2020)

Suzanne’s message is for every nonprofit organization and especially donors. Nonprofits cannot fail forward; they cannot learn from their mistakes if donors fail to support their work through the process.

Right now, more than any time in my nonprofit career of forty years, organizations are facing a mountain of change. I am not overly dramatic when I say it is a “do or die” kind of change.

I am fascinated by the no-go event invitations now filling my mailbox—fun, silly, laughable, super creative. Great ideas. But those events are only the surface of creation and change demanded of nonprofits.

The clients they serve, the way they serve, how staff and volunteers serve and how board members lead – all are in an unprecedented and demanding period of change.

For most of us, change comes with fear and trepidation. The natural inclination to turn and run is felt by everyone. The courage to face the fear and look forward to the unknown is an important “do or die” moment.   

Again, Suzanne shares a resource to help us focus through such times. Be Fearless: Five Principles for a Life of Breakthrough and Purpose, by Jane Goodall of The Case Foundation. Goodall challenges us to use our fear to move forward, risk failure. Change the World.

It is time to ignite a more fearless approach to change-making – one that requires taking risks, being bold and failing forward – and it starts with YOU. —The Case Foundation

Donors, board members, volunteers, the staff at the nonprofit – every person is the YOU.  

Today’s blog is shorter than some, so take a few minutes to read “The Social Sector’s F-Word – Failure” by Suzanne Smith of Social Impact Architects.*

Remember, this message is not just for nonprofit organizations; it’s also for donors. Let’s stand with them as they fail forward into our unknown future.

*After reading Suzanne’s article, what did you learn from your past failures? Sharing them just might help someone else fail forward.

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