Non-Profit Leadership: The Importance of Celebrations

Class of 2022 calligraphy banner. Congrats Graduation lettering with academic cap, You did it. Template for design party high school or college, graduate invitations

For Lakeside, June is a month that is replete with celebrations. Since we have four schools there are four different graduation and student awards events. This year we have 3 long-standing staff members who are retiring, and they will have retirement events in honor of their long tenure.  We also have an all-staff picnic day with food trucks, tenure awards and an entire fun day of celebrating the amazing impact our staff have had in the lives of students regionally.  Finally, we are bringing a recently trained group of leaders for a luncheon of reflection and celebration of their impact in this past year.

While it is quite natural to provide end-of-year graduations for schools, the events we believe are important are individualized affirmation that each student has achieved. They have graduated and/or received an award such as Student of the Year, Most Improved Student, The Determination Award, academic awards and others. Because our students have to overcome so many life obstacles this is a celebration of their resilience, their healing and their future promise. We also acknowledge in these public ceremonies the parents, school district personnel, our own staff and others who have all contributed to the inspirational success of our students.

Elevated view of infant school children in a circle in the classroom giving high fives to their smiling female teacher, vertical, close up

Further, we need to celebrate the work of our staff who have had such meaningful impact on those students in their care. Lakeside’s impact is to over 5,000 students per year. That requires long-suffering mentoring, counseling, teaching, strategizing and problem-solving from a creative and compassionate staff. They too need to be celebrated as they have endured some extremely difficult situations with our students.

I find that we spend a great deal of time identifying problems and providing solutions and very little time claiming the space of success with those we serve. I think that in the midst of such  dire struggles it is sometimes hard to recognize the amazing progress that we have made together.

What is clear are the amazing results; we listen to students and staff speeches, experience the power of achievements that may have never occurred without us and experience the impact of genuine care. There is lasting inspiration that is empowering, motivating and filled with satisfaction.

Group of children with binoculars outdoors. Summer camp

Many non-profits have similar results in a year’s time. It is so important to stop and put some effort and finances into our celebrations. It is healthy, joyful, impactful and encouraging to staff, clients and their families. Our work is often very difficult and celebrating our victories are a great way to continue to build our missional momentum.

Some may wonder how we can afford these celebrations? We have engaged our vendor’s and providers of services to help us fund our end-of-year celebrations. When we explain what their sponsorships can achieve and invite them to attend, we have included them as a part of our success and they too can celebrate with us as well as participate financially. It is truly a community of care that can realize our mutual impact of life change, courage and hope.

Gerry Vassar


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