How many organizations have the opportunity to celebrate a 100 year birthday? Not many. Hardly any. I have to think hard to make a list. Yet I had the opportunity this past weekend to be at such a birthday party. It was for Northern Michigan School (NMCS) in McBain, Michigan.
As I was enjoying the party (my kids attend this school) with many of the people who, over the years, have become dear friends I kept asking myself what does it takes for an organization to have such a party.
Though small in size NMCS has some very big things going for it that brought it to a 100th birthday. Things that any organization desiring long-term impact need to have.
Things such as:
1. Generations of families being committed to the work.
2. Great people involved at all levels be it staff, volunteers, donors and ambassadors.
3. Clarity on purpose.
4. Willingness to change with out loosing focus on purpose. Very hard to do but essential for a 100 year birthday to be a reality.
5. Slow enough to change so that you are not “tossed back and forth by the waves and wind” of ever fad.
6. Reach out to people outside the traditional community which supports the work.
7. Hold to traditions that make the organization special and loose the ones that hold it back. Be not afraid to cut those traditions loose that hurt the organization today.
8. The organization needs to be owned emotionally by a larger community never by 1 person or a small group of people.
9. The focus always needs to be on others and their ongoing well-being. Love, celebration, honest accountability, friendship and other key ingredients that create community assure longevity.
10. Acknowledging that there is always something bigger than the organization. Something bigger being served. In NMCS’ case it is Christ and His Church.
NMCS has it going, and I have no doubt will celebrate their 200 year birthday as a result. More importantly to me personally is the privilege we have had as a family to be a part of such an organization and be the recipient of its great work.