(Series Intro) Last fall, we launched Jubilee Ventures in South Bend, IN. The hope was that our work on the ground would inform the way we direct the future of CovEnterprises, and vice versa. We wanted to create learning loops that allow us to not only champion best practices across the denomination but to apply innovative concepts and approaches on the ground.
All that sounds very exciting, but I’m learning that no matter how refined your concept, the work is always harder because it deals in real life (part of the reason we wanted to launch this anyway, to resist trafficking in ideas!).
The last in this series of Lessons on the Ground is to not forsake the formation of an advisory team. Perhaps the best thing about the non-profit organization structure is the presence of a dynamic advisory board (when its healthy of course!). Its a vital piece of ensuring organizational health related to leadership, fundraising, and guarding against mission drift.
In social enterprise, its all the more important to have a group of slightly removed leaders who are invested in the mission to not only round out the skill set of the leadership team, but to maintain a bit of objectivity in evaluating business and mission effectiveness.
In our case, we formed a VERY small team of stakeholders who worked to set up the mission early on as we launched the business. It has taken us a long time to build out that team into a functioning advisory team who can help us see what we cannot see, and lend a hand on initiatives we didn’t have the bandwidth for.
This created a few issues for us. First, we have struggled to raise funds for new projects. After an initial fundraising push, we put this on the back burner. We don’t have a huge need, but ensuring the long term success of new initiatives and helping us manage the back of house operations could use a small team focused on targeted fundraising. Second, because we are a small team, we have a limited perspective on issues we may be facing. Expanding this circle allows us to widen our wisdom and approach to solving problems. Third, related to this, we have a much narrower circle of connections than we ought to have, and the advisory team increases our connections exponentially.
All these things are part of non-profit board best practice, and we are learning along the way that, as a social enterprise we benefit from this same kind of investment from leaders. So for your project, who can you invite to your team that can help widen your perspective and your network of connections? What do you not know that an additional board member could open up new possibilities? In the end, don’t neglect the advisory team! Its essential work to getting work done.