Reflections on "How Scarcity Thinking Holds Nonprofits Back"

How You Can Create a Culture of Philanthropy at Your Camp

by Laurie Herrick, JCamp 180 Mentor

Nell Edgington's article "How Scarcity Thinking Holds Nonprofits Back" on the Social Velocity website offers some encouraging tools for engaging your board in a culture of philanthropy.

A friend, whom I will call Rachel, recently mentioned Carol Dweck's book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, the resource inspiring Nell Edgington's article.  She told me that when she was in middle school, she had really focused on her vocabulary, and her teachers rewarded her with compliments: "What a great vocabulary you have, Rachel!"  She walked away proudly believing that was who she was: someone with a great vocabulary. She heard it like a fact. Not like a challenge. She heard it like she could start wearing it like a label or a ribbon on her chest. She identified with it.

But by the time Rachel found herself in high school, she noticed that she constantly had to look up definitions, even when others didn't. She became aware that she was no longer someone with a great vocabulary!

When Rachel saw Carol Dweck's lecture at Smith College a couple of years ago, she had an "aha moment." Her insight was that since she had identified herself as someone with a great vocabulary, she could stop working on it! This is what Dweck calls a fixed mindset. When we get rewarded, we sometimes stop trying. We've reached our desired state.
Edgington's article suggests intentionally adopting what Dweck, quoted below, calls a growth mindset:

[In the growth mindset your] traits are not simply a hand you're dealt and have to live with…In [the growth] mindset, the hand you're dealt is just the starting point for development…People in a growth mindset don't just seek challenge, they thrive in it. The bigger the challenge, the more they stretch…Sometimes people with the growth mindset stretch themselves so far that they do the impossible.

What Does This Mean for Your Organization and Philanthropy?

Think about creating a culture of abundance at your organization, one where resources are readily available. Is it more useful to give up or persist in the face of obstacles? Is it more advantageous to ignore critical feedback or use it to improve? Is it more beneficial to feel threatened by the successes of others or rather to be inspired by them? 

Be sure to see Nell Edgington's numerous suggestions of how nonprofit leaders can shift from a fixed to a growth mindset. For example, consider this recommended shift in thinking and how it may apply to your camp:

Edgington discusses moving from a "Disengaged to a Productive Board."  Instead of complaining about an unproductive board, how can you instead rally its leaders to demand more? How can you inspire board members to help fulfill your camp's vision by funding it? How can you raise enough money to have the staff feel honored by their pay rather than stretched so tightly that they have to look for supplementary income? 

A board can be groundbreaking. Board and staff leaders (regardless of position) can impact camp mindset. It's the culture of the organization, actually. It is why this conversation easily encompasses both "a culture of philanthropy" and a "mindset of abundance." Shifting the way we think--along with the way we speak and the resulting actions we take--can radically and positively impact our outcomes in funding success. This concept is stated clearly in this poem, of unknown origin:

Watch your thoughts, for they become your words;
Watch your words, for they become your actions;
Watch your actions, for they become your habits;
Watch your habits, for they become your character;
Watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.

What is your camp's destiny? Please share with us ways that your camp has taken on this shift! Or, coming from a growth mindset, what have you learned?  We welcome a dialog on creating a powerful Culture of Philanthropy at your camp!