From Seeds to Harvest

by Sherry Heuser

This time of year is garden time. Vegetables that were started weeks ago in greenhouses have been transplanted to fields and are now being harvested. Berries are coming into season. Even if you never get your hands dirty, you can’t escape the photos of fresh-from-the-garden deliciousness tempting us from every social media site, magazine cover, and restaurant menu.

As I scan these images and savor the results of my own work, I am reminded of the adage: You reap what you sow. Personally, whether it's the soul-warming happiness gained from giving someone a special gift or the karmic slap of realizing poor planning has resulted in a missed opportunity, consequences of our actions can be a powerful influence. We hope to learn from our experiences.

Professionally, too, we need to carefully consider what goes into our "garden", if we hope to have a bountiful harvest. We recognize this when building community connections, cultivating donors, or advancing our mission. Comparing it with gardening, I came up with these thoughts:

  • Choose your seeds: Not all plants are likely to succeed in all climates, and not all donors will become legacy givers. Every partner and idea may be worth considering, but only those with the right fit will move forward successfully. Do your research before you begin.
  • Prepare your soil: Plants don’t grow well in rocky terrain. Donors who aren’t provided with a foundation and connection to your mission won’t thrive. New endeavors and programs without evidence-based structure won’t succeed. Be sure to provide solid grounding on which to hang your strategies.
  • Nourish your seedlings: Water, sunshine, warmth, nutrients, and air are critical to develop seedlings into full-sized plants. Continued cultivation through multiple opportunities keeps donors and colleagues involved, interested, and growing. Ongoing support and attention will allow you to enhance, extend, and evolve your services.

In the end, we all know it takes work to make a program successful, much like the effort needed to grow a crop from seed to harvest.

Bottom Line: With the right selection, proper preparation, and regular care, your organization’s relationships and mission will grow.

Sherry Heuser is president of Capability Company Consulting, a Raleigh, N.C.-based firm supporting nonprofit organizations' searches for key hires.

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