There were other growing pains. Some of the original employees were moving into leadership roles without the proper skills or training. Despite being highly dedicated and intelligent people, certain roles could only properly be marshalled by specialists. A lifelong activist can work with numbers 12 hours a day but never be able to achieve what a trained accountant could do in half quarter that time. Activity is not the same as movement. A boat with a powerful engine running twelve hours a day will make lots of noise and use lots of fuel, but it’s not likely to get anywhere if the operator doesn’t know how to steer.
Simply put, the organization needed to become more efficient and more professional.
Stage Three: What got us here, won’t get us there
By 2009, Marc and Craig realized that WE could not progress much further without some key changes. First and foremost was the matter of funding. Following the devastating 2004 tsunami in South East Asia, charitable funds were being spread among an ever-growing list of non-profits who responded to the widespread destruction and loss of life. That was followed by the 2008 world economic crisis, which led to a significant decrease in charitable donations. i The net result was more organizations chasing fewer dollars. And for WE that meant more time, staff and infrastructure dedicated trying to raise funds instead of delivering for the charity’s beneficiaries. Working harder and putting more staff hours to fundraising was not going to advance the mission. The dollars were just not there. That reality laid the groundwork for Marc and Craig to launch ME to WE. The social enterprise was the first of its kind in Canada and fundamentally changed the way charities and social impact organizations could operate. By selling products and trips to consumers, instead of trying to leverage funds from scarce donors, ME to WE created a sustainable revenue stream for WE Charity to operate and grow well into the future. It also created work for thousands of artists and craftspeople in Africa and South America. By 2012, the leaders also started to understand the power of the word ‘no’. Saying ‘no’ did not come naturally at first, and Craig and Marc began to change as leaders, understanding that the strengths and limits of their organization and their people might not be the same as their own innate work style or energy level. With the revenue stream soon consistently delivering for the charity, they were able to start looking at all big decisions and opportunities through a three-tier model: 1. Do we want to do it? Previously, the answer was always an enthusiastic “yes”. It was an emotional response and one that often over-loaded the organization. But with the
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