Non-Profit Leadership: Non-profits as Agents of Change

Business people meeting at office and use post it notes to share idea. Brainstorming concept. Sticky note on glass wall.

I am often learning about amazing leaders who are working diligently to focus on some cause or human need that is so important for our country. Whether an organization has spent years working to help mental health patients or that has just begun their journey to help marginalized individuals find a way to overcome serious barricades, I find such refreshing passion and purpose in these organizational leaders.

I spend time each week talking to leaders who are working to trauma-inform their valuable work. The fact that we are having that discussion shows how compassionate and committed they are to build organizations that are educated and skilled to care for trauma-impacted individuals. These individuals are under incredible stress and still work diligently to provide help and hope to those in need.

I sometimes muse about all the political antics and discussions about funding these causes. We have watched our country emotionally collapse from the pandemic. Our students have more mental health crises than ever. Drug and alcohol programs are overwhelmed. Suicide rates are alarming. Overall, the emotional cultural climate feels very unsafe. Mass shootings and violence have gone off the charts and we still have such polarized views in how to deal with such life-dominating issues. 

What is a reality check is that politicians and governments rarely are the ones who are on the front lines of these social ills. Their role should be to empower those on the forefront of help to those in the depths of such complex problems. Largely the agents of prevention, intervention and progressive change are the non-profit organizations. These organizations are under-funded, over-worked and under-appreciated. Yet they are pivotal when we need turn to them for help and hope for our social problems.

That is why it is important that non-profit leaders understand their role as change agents. We need to see our mission as a serious stewardship to make our world better. I often tell my Lakeside staff who deal with so many students in crisis that they are the reason we don’t see our students commit crimes, enter the world of violence or continue to worse places in their mental health journey. We are the ones who intervene, who provide new strategies for recovery and growth and help our students find a life path that will help them find success and emotional health.

Non-profits are such special entities. The people who work in non-profits are unique. They are not in it for the money but for the impact they are having in the lives of others. It is such a great profession with lots of challenges. However, the rewards are amazing! If we are going to overcome some of the societal ills that are so prominent, we need to support non-profits. Also, non-profit leaders need to have a voice in what happens in schools, homes and communities.  We need community-wide support systems where those who have the knowledge and skills to help those in need are empowered to do so. 

Every non-profit has the opportunity to make a significant difference to our community and country. Yes, politicians and governments can provide the resources and the need. But the on-the-ground work needs to be acknowledged and supported to thrive. This is the opportunity for non-profits to act as agents of change as they create the transformation we so desperately need.

Gerry Vassar, President/CEO

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