“If not you, who?”

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That’s a question I got from Kent Glasscock, a former statewide political leader in Kansas and someone who is recognized for his ability to get things done. He was speaking at a local Chamber Leadership meeting a decade ago, and although he doesn’t remember it, I swear he was looking right at me when he asked the question. He was talking about making the world a better place to live and taking on leadership roles. Since then, Kent’s become a bit of a mentor for me, always willing to listen to a new idea or give me feedback on a project. But that one question will always stay with me.

And I’d like to pose it to you: If not you, who?

In the context of changing the world (for someone or everyone) it really only takes one person to start. And there are lots of places to start.

Living in a university community, I’ve had the opportunity to work with and talk to lots of students. They often ask me for advice on the best way to get a career started in the nonprofit sector. I’ve come up with a short series of steps to take, but it basically boils down to this: do it, own it, and follow through.

  1. Volunteer for an organization (either for a project, program, committee, or board).
  2. Offer to do things.
  3. Show up and do the thing or things you offered to do.
  4. Offer to do more.
  5. Show up again and do the things you offered to do.
  6. Listen and learn.
  7. Be gracious.
  8. Keep showing up, keep doing, and keep offering to do things. And keep learning.

One of the secrets of the nonprofit sector is that lots of nonprofit board members aren’t really interested in doing a lot of work. They may appreciate the cause, but most already have full time jobs, families, and other activities that keep them busy (and tired). If you show up, have energy and not only offer to do stuff, but actually get stuff done? You’ll be asked to provide leadership in no time. They are yearning for someone like you to come along and give them a boost.

Who else but you?

 

photo credit: Chris Owens via photo pin, creative commons

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