Show your work, please

From the Archives

Originally published May 16, 2012

Today’s page comes not from any particular individual’s book, but from all those math textbooks that urge students to show their work in solving simple to complex math equations. This message can apply to anyone, and I direct my comments today to entrepreneurs and other leaders. In particular, this page is a heads-up to community activists with great ideas and programs for youth and with little financial backing to support their initiatives.

My clients include a diverse crowd, not the least of whom are community leaders whose vague ideas about keeping youth off the streets rarely garner much more than spoken support from other leaders with similar passions. What we try to do together is to move from ideas to programs and from programs to outcomes. And where do we get stuck? Showing the work.

New, startup initiatives need to show solid mission, goals, objectives, and financial projections. Established and ongoing programs need to show past activities, their outcomes, future endeavors, and still more projections. See the common thread? Potential sponsors and funders – much like lenders and investors in the for-profit sector – don’t want to throw valuable funding after shaky or shady deals. And all they sometimes ask in the way of assurance is that leaders and directors show their work.

There are plenty of more experienced leaders, equally passionate volunteers, and even elected officials willing to support these grassroots efforts that really do have potential to yield promising results. Don’t miss those opportunities and resources by doubting your ability to succeed or by failing to do your homework. If you want to rest easy when school is out, ensure your peace of mind by taking time now to show your work!