We were inspired to become a nonprofit when we realized we had reached our full growth potential in not being one. It was somewhat of a painful transition, as we were comfortable (that’s the worst, and when change will hit you hardest!), and were at a point where we could have continued business-as-usual and been mediocre in our efforts. Realizing that, there was no question that we were going to have to get uncomfortable to grow as an organization that serves others.
A little background – before our official launch as a 501c3 organization in 2017, we were sponsored as a “project” within a church since 2009, where they handled all the nonprofit paperwork and requirements for maintaining a 501c3 status so we didn’t have to (Nice!). They also sent us to attend missions team leader trainings and gave us airtime to share our experiences in Jamaica with the congregation. During that time, we ran a number of mission trips to Jamaica to rebuild homes, refurbish the Bluefields Community Center, and more. All the while, we were building relationships with the people of the Bluefields, Jamaica community, and THIS is the most important work that was being done!
Fast forward to 2016, and although all those dry, legal paperwork requirements were handled, operating as a “project” caused limitations in our growth because of a few factors:
- Competing for attention with all the activities, budget items and other missions and work that were happening within a busy church environment.
- Leaning on the same church audience to travel with us or donate to us, effectively tapping into the same people, year after year, month after month.
- People outside of “The Church Proper” sometimes weren’t comfortable or willing to volunteer or donate to a religious organization (honestly, I sometimes have trouble with doing this, too.)
- Our approach of ongoing, community-partnership-based international missions work generally didn’t fit into “the box” of a typical Christian mission trip and created some discomfort with it not being the norm. (See also: this fantastic article about the White Savior Complex)
As we contemplated moving away from the church and all the comforts there to stand on our own, there were many unknowns (and fear!) to contend with. How would we go about becoming a 501c3? (A: We got help) How would we have the time to run a business and work full-time at another job? (A: It’s worked out amazingly.) Where would the donations come from if it wasn’t from people we know? (A: People we don’t know – who’d have thought?)
Taking that first step forward got the ball rolling and we haven’t regretted a single moment. We found support in early 2017 from the Greensboro, North Carolina startup community and joined the Launch Greensboro program, which resulted in getting help to achieve our 501c3 status and a solid foundation to starting our nonprofit. We joined forces with Brandon Ward, who’d traveled often with us in the early years, to become our third co-founder to balance the work. Volunteers have come out of the woodwork to help us with all kinds of things (we’re so grateful to all of you!). We have seen interest from people within our own neighborhoods but also from across the country and beyond, ultimately resulting in personal donations of a few dollars on up to corporate donations of thousands.
In 2018, we were officially official, and in those 12 short months, we were able to achieve so much as a team personally and professionally. Most importantly, through the programs and projects we’ve completed in partnership with the communities we serve, we’ve been able to impact many lives for the better. What we’ve learned from this is not to fear change – but to embrace it! And…hold on for the ride.
Comment below about a time YOU faced a big change. What did you fear? Why did you need to make that change? How did you get through it? What resulted from it?