Some Lessons Learned at The Green Chair Project...and along the way!

by Beth Y. Smoot

It has been a privilege and honor to be part of The Green Chair Project since we started it in 2010. Its story and growth have been amazing and have taught me so much!

I wanted to share a few of the keys to its phenomenal growth - not surprisingly, these are universal principles that are transferable to your own organizations and businesses. Through our adventure, we learned:

  1. TAKE THE NEXT STEP. Good things often start with just a basic idea and build from there. So, at the beginning of an undertaking, you don't have to know exactly how you are going to get to your goal - you just need a clear direction and a commitment to taking the next step forward. You will grow one step at a time (sometimes those steps are leaps and bounds!), so long as you keep heading in the right direction.
  2. CONSISTENCY RULES. As an organization, it is important to be consistent. So when you consider new policies or programs, it is a useful exercise to consider whether you can continue that practice consistently. If you can't, don't do it to start with!
  3. COLLABORATION IS KEY. When not-for-profits collaborate they are able to leverage resources to get better results. Collaborating with other groups doesn't mean blindly giving away resources. It means taking an opportunity to learn from others, see where you can pool resources, and identify how each one can serve their constituents better. So the idea of collaborating and "breaking even" is a myth - in truth, one plus one should equal at least three or more!
  4. EVERYONE BRINGS THEIR OWN PERSPECTIVE, EXPERIENCES AND STRENGTHS. I really appreciate how important it is to be aware of your strengths and weaknesses and to think about what comes easy to you and what is a struggle. If you work from your strengths, that is your best contribution. But if you spend your time trying to master the tasks that challenge you most, you will just be frustrated and unhappy. You may also be taking an opportunity away from someone else who would LOVE to do that thing.
  5. PEOPLE ARE GENEROUS BY NATURE and they WANT TO HELP - THEY JUST NEED TO KNOW HOW. Everyone has something to offer - and if they can find a unique way to serve a clear purpose, they will flourish. I recently heard that the term "Volunteer" is not a job description, it is a pay grade. Volunteers are not paid, NOT because they are worthless, but because they are PRICELESS.

Bottom Line: As leaders in the non-profit industry, each of you has many opportunities to positively impact the community. So, I encourage you to think about how you can not only do well in business, but also how you can do good.

Beth Smoot, J.D., is the Co-Founder of The Green Chair Project and lives in Raleigh, NC. As a lawyer, realtor, non-profit Co-Founder & Board Member, wife & mother of two, she enjoys creating, consulting, problem-solving, trouble-shooting, envisioning what might be and helping realize those visions - in all kinds of settings. Thank you for your interest in The Green Chair Project's story - we invite you to become part of the story now. To learn more, volunteer, donate, or sponsor, visit! Still can't get enough? Check out the Grant Program through the NCDOJ that Beth is also currently working on.

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