who are you really working for?

A Fundamental Question Rooted in Your Basic Worldview

Sometimes it’s a great exercise to ask, “Who’s the real client here?” I remember reading several years ago about a nonprofit in Colorado that was helping the homeless. They were considering who their client was.

1.      It was not their staff. The organization was not there just to make sure their leaders and workers got paychecks.

2.      It was not their board. The organization was not there just to make these important people feel good about what they were involved in.

3.      It was not their donors. The organization was not there just to do what their donors wanted and paid for.

4.      It was not their community at large. The organization was not there just to make their community a more pleasant place, by keeping these scruffy homeless people out of sight.

5.      It was … the homeless people themselves.

That insight affected how they approached their work from there forward. For one thing, if it was the homeless they were serving, maybe they should ask those people what they wanted. As it turned out, as they fulfilled their mission, good things also came to their staff, board, donors, and community. But those were side benefits that came from serving their real client.

I’m thinking about this because I’ve been considering how this question applies to my own life and work as a consultant to nonprofits. Who do I serve?

1.      Do I serve Michael? Not really, though I do need to do good work and get paid so I can pay my bills.

2.      Do I serve my clients? Not really, even though they write the checks to pay me, which I appreciate.

3.      Do I serve the clients of my clients? That’s getting closer. If I do good work for C.H.A.N.C.E. in Albany, I’m actually serving the recovering drug addicts they serve. If I do good work for Dynamic Church Planting International, I’m actually serving the thousands of church planters they train … and then the people those church planters serve.

4.      For me, as a Christian, I’m serving God. There’s a verse in the Bible that says, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters …. It is the Lord Christ you are serving” (Colossians 3:23-24).

I try to live by that.

So my own answer to this question is rooted in my basic worldview, my basic understanding of reality. So also with you. Who are you working for? It’s an important question, and it’s rooted in the most basic things you believe about life, the universe, and everything.  

love, joy, peace … Michael

www.michaeljaffarian.com. Michael is a freelance consultant to nonprofits, with an emphasis on research. Contact him for a free, one-hour consultation. emichaeljaffarian@gmail.com.

Vol. 1 No. 4

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