Morgan Hancock: 5 Things You Need To Know To Successfully Lead A Nonprofit Organization

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Get comfortable asking for money — People may think that the capitalist world of sales and the charitable world of nonprofits are polar opposites, but the skills required to succeed in each are the same. Money is the life source of a nonprofit. If you are uncomfortable asking people for it, starting a nonprofit may not be for you.

As part of my series about “individuals and organizations making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Morgan Hancock.

Morgan Hancock is a commercial real estate agent, entrepreneur, US ARMY veteran, mother-of-two, bourbonista, and passionate advocate of the arts. She is a charismatic force who can completely capture a room, radiating positivity with a disarming demeanor and sharp sense of humor.

Thank you so much for doing this with us. Before we begin our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”?

I’m a commercial real estate broker, business owner, US ARMY veteran, mother of two, bourbonista, and passionate advocate of the arts.

Can you tell us the story behind why you decided to start or join your non nonprofit?

Bourbon with Heart combines two of my favorite things about Kentucky: bourbon and artists.

Kentucky is already known worldwide as the bourbon industry leader but is lesser known for its rich and vibrant arts culture. I wanted to change that.

I founded Bourbon with Heart to leverage the influence and popularity of bourbon to raise funds, bring awareness, educate, provide better access, and deliver a first-class arts experience to every person in Kentucky regardless of age, race, class, gender, or ability.

Can you describe how you or your organization aims to make a significant social impact?

Art improves lives.

Art not only impacts society at large through preserving history, challenging the status quo, and boosting economies, but also personally impacts each life it touches.

Art draws upon our most fundamental human qualities, such as creativity, discovery, and community.

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs states the following five human needs:

  • Physiological (food, water, shelter)
  • Security (safe from harm)
  • Sense of Belonging (community, friendship)
  • Self-esteem (respect, recognition)
  • Self-actualization (realization of unique ability/talents)

Art helps satisfy three of these: self-actualization, self-esteem, and a sense of belonging.

However, Bourbon with Heart takes art’s impact even further. The funds raised through our art initiatives also go to other nonprofits whose missions are to serve physiological human needs, such as food, water, and shelter.

Without saying any names, can you share a story about an individual who was helped by your idea so far?

Last week, one of the artists selected for our upcoming Bourbon Barrel art exhibit started crying as I delivered her barrel to her. I asked her if she was okay, and she said, “I’ve never felt like I’ve been good at anything other than painting, and I’m just so happy I finally get the chance to share that part of me with so many people.”

Creating and sharing one’s art is a deeply personal and vulnerable experience. It gives the artist something to be proud of, a way to feel seen, and a way to express their unique identity.

Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?

City Officials Should Do Their Research

Data proves that the arts make communities more vibrant, welcoming, and desirable.

City officials should research how a vibrant arts community benefits an area economically and civically and ensure that art is a fundamental component of city design and budget planning

Use the City as a Stage

City officials should collaborate with arts organizations like Bourbon with Heart to create art programs outside traditional facilities. When community-engaged art programs beautify the community through art walks, murals, mosaics, live demonstrations, or installations, pride in the community also flourishes.

Donate to a Local Arts Charity

Funding is a primary issue within the arts. By donating to your local arts charity, you contribute significantly to the support of artists and arts organizations. Your donation helps provide individuals and smaller institutions with the resources they need for artistic production, programming, residencies, exhibitions, and much more.

How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

As a US ARMY veteran, leadership has been a prominent concept in my life. During Basic Training, we had to memorize the seven ARMY values, which form the acronym LDRSHIP. We even had to recite them while doing jumping jacks inside a tear gas chamber!

In the military, mess hall protocol is that soldiers eat in order of rank, with the highest ranking eating last.

I remember the first time I went to “chow” as a brand-new, low-ranking Private. The drill sergeants who were intimidating and yelling orders at us just moments before were now at the back of the line awaiting their food. We were starving, and the drill sergeants had worked just as hard as us Privates, if not harder, yet they were eating last. They had to wait longer for their food and had less time to eat it. I witnessed one occasion when the kitchen ran out of hot food, and the highest-ranking officers were resigned to eating cold MREs (Meals Ready-to-Eat).

This was a profound moment for me regarding how I define leadership. Being a leader doesn’t mean you are easy on your people or don’t hold them accountable, but it does mean that when it matters, you ensure they are taken care of first.

Loyalty: A leader believes in and devotes themselves to their mission.

Duty: A leader fulfills their obligations.

Respect: A leader treats others with dignity and respect.

Selfless Service: A leader puts the welfare of others before their own.

Honor: A leader lives up to their values.

Integrity: A leader does what is right.

Personal Courage: A leader is willing to face fear, danger, and adversity.

Based on your experience, what are the “5 things a person should know before they decide to start a non profit”. Please share a story or example for each.

  1. Get comfortable asking for money — People may think that the capitalist world of sales and the charitable world of nonprofits are polar opposites, but the skills required to succeed in each are the same. Money is the life source of a nonprofit. If you are uncomfortable asking people for it, starting a nonprofit may not be for you.
  2. Think like a CEO — Founding and managing a nonprofit is a business. You need to be savvy in everything a corporate CEO should be, such as accounting, operations, marketing, public relations, legal, and more. Having a heart for giving is wonderful, but be sure you also have a mind for business.
  3. Don’t be Afraid of Self-Promotion — Many people inclined to start a nonprofit are naturally giving-people and don’t seek the spotlight. However, especially in today’s world of social media, you must be willing to be loud and proud about who YOU are. No matter how great your organization’s mission is, people want to see and know the face behind it.
  4. Know Your Competitors — Having worked in both the for-profit and nonprofit sectors, I have seen that nonprofit workers are wary of using the word “competition.” However, competition among nonprofits can be very positive. Competition fosters innovation, creates more capacity, and strengthens accountability. Learn who your competitors are and strive to collaborate with them when possible. But don’t be afraid to compete with them when needed to continually provide better for the people you serve.
  5. One Big Reason is Better than a lot of Small Reasons — When you start a nonprofit, the first thing that individuals, prospective donors, and the media will ask is your “WHY.” You may have a hundred reasons WHY you created your nonprofit, but remember that people always resonate more with one BIG reason over many small reasons. Figure out your one BIG reason.

We are very blessed that very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world who you would like to talk to, to share the idea behind your non profit? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

In my late teens and early twenties, I worked for The Leadership Institute, a nonprofit organization that teaches “political technology.”

Leadership Institute founder, Morton Blackwell, always said, “You owe it to your philosophy to learn how to win.”

Merely having a strong conviction about something isn’t enough; you have a moral obligation to learn how to win. To make a difference and see your beliefs, principles, and philosophies in action requires a plan. This involves studying and developing the business and technological acumen required to compete and win in the real world.

This life lesson has been very influential in shaping my approach to building my nonprofit.

Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson” Quote? How is that relevant to you in your life?

As a fellow law-school drop-out, class clown, lover of unicorns, and someone with a strong desire to make the world a better place, there is no one I’d rather connect with than Vu Le from “Non-Profit AF” — (even if he is a vegan).

Vu Le, if you’re reading this, there’s a glass of bourbon in Kentucky with your name on it (though probably spelled wrong).

How can our readers follow you online?

Readers are welcome (and encouraged) to follow me on my personal and professional pages below.

Facebook or Instagram: @MorganBrookeHancock

Facebook or Instagram: @BourbonWithHeart

This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success in your mission.

Morgan Hancock: 5 Things You Need To Know To Successfully Lead A Nonprofit Organization was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.