How Will You Become TIME’s “Nonprofit of the Year”?

By J. Patrick Traynor

From “Reimagining Board Service: A Practical Blueprint for Building an Impact Board.” You can purchase a copy here.

Last month, we talked about the importance of making multiplier thinking the rule for your board of directors, not the exception. Now that we’ve established why it’s so essential to regularly create the conditions for bold thinking, let’s get into how we might do that.

There are a number of different ways you can simulate bold thinking, but the one we prefer is what we call the TIME Magazine exercise. It’s something you can comfortably fit into your next board meeting and will engage all of your directors in a creative visioning experience whereby the group develops a cover story for a national publication.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Split into small groups of board members.
  1. Ask board members to imagine that, five years from now, your organization has been selected to appear on the cover of TIME Magazine’s homepage as the “Nonprofit of the Year” in the U.S.
  1. Have each group create a headline for what your charity achieved that was worthy of such a prestigious recognition.
  1. Write a short (1 pg. max) article detailing your organizations’s noteworthy achievements. Here are some questions to get you started:
    • What were the major accomplishments that landed your organization on the homepage of TIME?
    • What specific issues did you solve or substantially impact?
    • What strategies and tactics did you use to achieve these results?
    • What networks did you engage to support your efforts?
    • Create a list of key metrics that demonstrate impact achieved — lives impacted, dollars raised, health improved, etc.
  1. Add in some visual elements — photos, graphs, pull quotes, etc. This helps illuminate and bring to life the great success achieved by your organization.

A useful thing to be thinking about during this exercise is to assume the perspective of your customers, donors, and staff.

The object of this exercise is to suspend all disbelief and envision a future state so stellar that it landed your organization on the homepage of a prominent national publication.

Your directors must pretend as though this future has already taken place and has been reported on by the national media. This exercise is worth considering because it not only encourages your people to think big, but it also plants the seeds for a future that seems impossible.

Consider having your staff and other leaders of the organization go through the TIME Magazine exercise as well. This serves to unite the board, CEO, and staff in aiming much higher than ever before.

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