The first rule of intelligent tinkering is to keep all the pieces.
-- Aldo Leopold
Healthy systems – foundations, public interest groups and businesses, as well as ecosystems – value all their component pieces and integrate them into a dynamic whole that can quickly and flexibly respond to changed realities. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, “conservation” is “the preservation in life, health and being” of a system through nurturing its parts, in the context of the whole, to produce real results. In this sense, conservation is the only strategy.
Creating healthy organizations requires rigorous attentiveness to all the pieces – nurturing those that need it – with a clear vision for the purpose of the whole and how accomplishments will be measured. A healthy not-for-profit organization:
· embraces a clear mission, which is inclusive and which board, staff, members and other constituents understand and to which they genuinely subscribe;
· communicates a clear and consistent message (internally and externally) about its mission, goals, strategy and tactics in ways that tap into widely-shared American values;
· recruits a diverse membership who give of their dollars and of their hours because of their affinity for the organization’s distinctive mission, message, strategies and tactics and who are individually recognized for their achievements;
· takes a disciplined entrepreneurial approach to developing diverse and stable sources of money so it can persevere in pursuing its mission despite financial setbacks in particular revenue sources.
Thoughtful, strategic organizations (and their funders) develop business plans with measurable objectives for mission-message-membership-money that are integrated with programmatic goals to produce conservation victories and to enhance organizational health at the same time.