Inspiration is one of the most humbling feelings we humans can experience. And it was everywhere with the inaugural class of the Find Your Pajamas Nonprofit Business Intensive & Pitch Contest. We assembled on Saturday, September 14th at the beautiful New York City, SOHO offices of our host, Scholastic, Inc.
Almost 20 years ago, a little girl asked me what pajamas were. She inspired me to quit my successful job and start a nonprofit I called the Pajama Program. For 18 of those 20 years, I have led teams of volunteers, leaders, successful boards and executives who fundraise and operate award-winning nonprofits and shared my story. I have to attribute a majority of the success of Pajama Program to the power of the “Human Connection.” Through connecting with my employees and leadership teams on personal human levels, they, in turn, learned how to better connect with the communities we are serving and have been able to grow Pajama Program to 60 chapters throughout the country.
As the founder of the Pajama Program, over the years I was often asked to mentor other entrepreneurs or nonprofit founders, and I found the mentorships to be my most favorite roles. My mentees inspired me! I have met and mentored hundreds of people with unique and heartfelt ideas for nonprofits. Some were inspired to jump off the corporate ladder as I did, and others found ways to help while continuing in their day jobs. Sharing my knowledge with them and seeing their passions kept me inspired just as my story inspired them.
Over time, I realized that there was a need for others like me looking to connect with like-minded nonprofit founders to share frustrations, challenges, build comradery and learn new technology and business skills to take their nonprofits to the next level.
So, we brought founders of 18 nonprofits together with 16 veteran nonprofit founders and leaders for an intimate workshop in September. The biggest takeaway from the event was not how to condense an elevator speech into two minutes or how to send a better marketing email, it was the bold, passionate and unbridled INSPIRATION that the group as a whole gave to each other. This unexpected, fresh and authentic feeling told me that in addition to business tools, nonprofit founders need confidence-boosting skills to help them battle the self-doubt that all entrepreneurs come up against. They needed ways to stay inspired.
Below are my five takeaways from our nonprofit event on how social entrepreneurs and nonprofit founders can create their own INSPIRATION on those days when you are questioning yourself and your mission. It begins with the I. It’s important to remind yourself of these every day to maintain the confidence and strength in pursuing your passions!
- I have a purpose
- I can connect with others to share my mission
- I will see my efforts through to the next step
- I envision the recipients and community benefiting from my organization
- I believe that there is a solution to every challenge
By embracing these five sayings― writing them down, posting them on your mirror, reciting them on the commute to the office ―you will regain your sense of purpose and stay the course.
I knew I’d be emotional meeting all of our new nonprofits, but I never imagined how deep my feelings would go. After spending the day together, I could barely find the words to say when I was wrapping up the day and announcing the winner of our pitch contest. What was to be an educational, supportive, encouraging, and yes, fun day too…turned into a WOW event! We took it to levels I never dreamed we’d go. The camaraderie, kinship and spirit of togetherness that started the minute each of the participants walked into the event was immediately palpable.
The words I wanted to say at the end of the day were Thank You. Every nonprofit inspired and motivated me to believe in humanity’s enduring goodness and I am in awe of every single one of them.