The Contributors and The Creators

Well, it’s been a year of lessons for me.  As I’ve mentioned in prior posts, I am on the board of a non-profit organization.  And after a little over a year of operations, that organization is shutting down.  The experience that I got out of it has changed a lot of how I view the world, especially towards the end.  The net take-away for me is that being a contributor to society doesn’t really have any payoff, either monetarily or emotionally.

Let’s look at the beginning.  When you start a business with a group of people, you might all be excited that you’re all building something great.  Don’t believe it.  Everyone has their motives for the creation of the entity and one or more people involved will only happy to be receiving the benefits of the existence of said entity.  The assistance you get from them will be minimal at best.

As time goes on, because of the lack of contribution, you will find yourself picking up the slack, through donations of time and money.  You will convince yourself that the business just needs to get over the hump and it can become self-sustaining.  As the excitement wears off for the others, you are left more or less alone.  Don’t believe in any “build it and they will come” dreams.  You’re going to have to drive people to your cause, and probably will have to do it alone.

Then, as you’ve put so much time and effort into your creation, and it actually seems like it might be stabilizing, you might be fortunate enough to be the recipient of an attack.  That attack could be in any form, whether financial, betrayal of a corporate officer, character defamation, or something even worse.  Maybe you can survive it.  Maybe your supporters rally to your cause and get you through it.  But, maybe, it just changes your entire perception of why you built the business in the first place.  Is it worth playing in the same playground as the bullies and the attackers?

And then, as time and negativity set in, there is no one left that believes in the cause.  The ones that were originally in it for themselves have already left.  If you’re lucky enough to have fresh members who you hope would feed the excitement for the cause, they may falter and leave.  What do you have left?  Start from scratch again with all the time and money investment that goes along with it?

The ideal life of a non-profit is like crowdsurfing at a concert.  The original people holding the surfer can’t keep doing it forever.  It needs to be passed on.  But when there’s no one available to pass on to, there can only be a collapse.

But anyway, back to the the title.  People may think being a creator is easy, since you just have to think the idea, get it started and off it runs.  That’s not always how it works.  Think of a for-profit business.  Sure you can run that until it explodes in a torrent of money or disaster.  But when you create a non-profit, you are not an owner.  There are NO owners.  You are a creator and a perpetual contributor until someone chooses to relieve you.  That time may never come.

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