059-facebookWhen I started the Veteran Resource Podcast I was clear on one thing:  If, after being surrounded by military members and veterans for 25 years, I only knew about a handful of veteran nonprofit organizations out of thousands, then most other veterans didn’t know about them either.  I recognized this as an opportunity for me to help my veteran brothers and sisters by getting the word out to as many as I could.

I didn’t even know how to podcast yet, but I knew it was a growing trend so I read books, took courses, and even joined a mastermind group to do a deep dive.  What I didn’t expect is that it would take off like it did.  Almost every organization that I asked to come on the show did so without hesitation and most were ecstatic that I started this podcast.  Time after time I would get veterans telling me that this podcast opened up a whole new world for them, and truth be told, it opened up a whole new world for me.

With the conversational style of the interviews I was able to learn not only about what these organizations were doing for veterans and their family members, but also a little about how they were being run.  I’ve learned so many things from interviewing 50 veteran nonprofit organizations, but today I am just going to share my top five.

1.  The Riches are in the Niches

This is a saying that I have heard many times.  It’s in a book by Pat Flynn of Smart Passive Income called Will It Fly, but I am not sure if he is the original author of the quote.  In most cases the “riches” are referring to money, but that is not what I am talking about here.  What I mean is that every organization that I have spoken with has their own very specific way of helping veterans and/or their family members.  Heroes on the Water uses kayak fishing; The Mission Continues uses community projects; Veteran Golfers Association uses golf, etc.  By niching down, the organization is able to concentrate all of their resources (both financial and human) on that one specific thing and become experts at providing that thing to its members.

2.  Collaboration is Key

The mural I created in the stairwell of the school.

While niching down is great for allowing an organization to focus on one main method for helping veterans, that also means that the organization can’t be an island.  In the last handful of years I have seen a huge increase in the amount of collaboration that is happening among veteran organizations…and I absolutely love it.  When The Mission Continues was giving an elementary school in D.C. a facelift, they collaborated with The Veteran Artist Program to bring in some mural artists who put up some very inspiring artwork on the walls both inside and out.  If you are a member of an organization, start looking for opportunities to bring in another organization to team with on some projects.  Everybody wins, ESPECIALLY the veterans.

3.  You Have to Believe It Before You Can Achieve It.

In every interview with an organization I ask the same final three questions, the last being “If you woke up tomorrow and found out that somebody made an anonymous donation of $10 million to your organization, what would you do with it?”.  The answers I get are incredible, inspiring, and always different.  But what I noticed along the way is that some of the organizations tell me they already have the plan in place for when this happens.  Others snicker a little bit as though a $10 Million donation is not in the realm of possibility.  Well, I can tell you that if you can’t truly believe it to be possible, then it probably is impossible…for you.  I encourage you to sit down with your team and stretch your brain to answer this question as if the money was coming in next month.  What you will find is that the ideas for what your organization can REALLY accomplish to help further your cause of helping veterans will amaze you.  And once you see it down on paper, you will get excited.  The staff will get excited.  The people that you start to share the idea with will get excited.  And now when you look at that $10 Million Plan, you will find it hard to believe that a large donor who wants to help veterans wouldn’t also feel the same passion for this project that you do, and just like that the idea of someone giving your organization $10 Million not only seems possible, it seems like a no-brainer.  Believe in what you can accomplish.  If you don’t, nobody else will either.

4.  Because of Veteran Organizations, Lives are being Saved Daily

When I started the podcast, I wanted to serve veterans by informing them of the thousands of veteran organizations available to them.  After talking to all of these incredible nonprofits, I started to hear a familiar pattern.  It was success story after success story of men and women who were in a dark place.  Some had wounds you could see, some you couldn’t.  Many thought about taking their own life, and some even attempted it.  But then they were plugged into a veteran organization, maybe through a friend, maybe through the VA, maybe through a series of completely random events.  But in the case of these success stories, it was the turning point for these individuals.  They changed their fate and not only survived, they thrived.  Many became leaders in the organization, or the community.  Some even went on to start their own organizations.  Hearing these stories changed me.  My passion for helping to spread the word about veteran organizations grew and grew with every success story I heard.  I truly feel that there are people out there who will hear my voice on the podcast, resinate with the organization that I am talking to, and change their fate by getting plugged in with them…and that drives me to do what I do.

5.  Serving Others is a Powerful Addiction

Veterans signed their name on the line to go and possibly fight for their country and fellow men and women.  They serve others.  When the uniform comes off the desire to serve others doesn’t go away.  When I talk to these leaders of organizations, you can hear the passion in their voices.  When you see that the work you are doing is directly impacting someone, it gets you.  I’ve worked alongside The Veteran Artist Program, The Mission Continues, Team RWB, Got Your 6, The 6th Branch, The Telling Project, Music 4 Vets, Code of Support, and more.  I’m addicted, there is no doubt in my mind.  But I can think of worse addictions than positively impacting the world that we live in.

If you are not plugged into a veteran organization yet, and are trying to figure out which one speaks to you, I invite you to go back and listen to all of the episodes of the Veteran Resource Podcast from the beginning.  I also ask that you join me in the Facebook Group that I created and say Hi.  You can join the group just by going to http://veteranresourcepodcast.com/community and click “Join”.  My goal is to get some great conversations going inside the group.