Welcome to the first edition of the Institute for Human Service, Inc.’s (IHS) new blog, “Nonprofits Take Flight”

Today we take a closer look at who nonprofits professionals are through the lens of nature.

As long as mankind has looked into the sky and watched birds fly, we have marveled at their grace in movement and done so with envy and hope that we might one day take flight too. This notion didn’t die with the invention of manned flight in the early 20th century, but continues in our daily lives, as we ask how we can help our professional endeavors also take flight. This is especially true for those of us that work at nonprofit organizations.

Throughout history, birds have been a powerful symbol for many of the things people who work at nonprofits strive for.

For example, the term “As the crow flies” is used to describe the most efficient route to a destination — something coveted by nonprofits trying to escape red-tape everywhere.

The adage “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush” is a nod to constant and wise risk assessment — the kind that takes place at nonprofits on a daily basis as they try to manage resources that often seem as “scarce as a hen’s teeth.”

We heed the warning of the dodo bird’s ill fate and try to avoid an “albatross around the neck” of our respective organizations at all cost, as we try to pull off incredible feats with the “grace of a swan”, and when we succeed, we take great pride in our good works, but there is little tolerance for “peacocking” in the nonprofit industry.

A place I draw inspiration from to remind me of the many joys and pitfalls of nonprofit work is in the vast number of poems penned about birds. One of my favorites is as follows:

I think that I have never heard

A signer lovely as a bird.

A bird, who clad in colored vest,

Nestles in its treeborne nest;

A bird that beckoned by the skies,

Lifts its feathered arms and flies;

A bird that calls out in rejoice,

To bathe the heavens with its voice.

There’s little doubt that God conferred

His sweetest song upon the bird,

But must these minstrels e’er display them

Saturday morning at 5 a.m.?!

Nonprofit professionals often possess similar characteristics to the birds described in this poem. Like birds, we tend to rise with the sun; We find ourselves forced to flit from one task to the next, looking like maniacs to the rest of the world; We use our voice to be uplifting and encourage others to fly; and we sing even when there’s heavy opposition, hoping to awaken others with our mission and vision’s beckoning call.

Sometimes, however, you can sing your heart out and it feels like no one is listening, but that’s no reason to be discouraged.

We all know that a chorus of birds is much harder to ignore than the solitary squawker, so when ‘birds of a (nonprofit) feather flock together,’ there is nothing that can stop us. There is proof in our coalition work, the services changes we’ve been able to make on the fly, and our dedication to delivering on our missions no matter what — attributes that have helped us overcome so much in 2020, from a pandemic temporarily closing doors to navigating shoe-string budgets, we’ve found ways to move forward together, migrating towards sunnier destinations. So, don’t operate ‘on a wing and a prayer’. Fledgling nonprofits starting from the ground-up, high-fliers who need to plot the next leg of their flight-plans and those who feel completely stalled and grounded by a challenging project always have a community to reach out to in IHS.

To become a member or find out more about the benefits of membership, visit our website. www.ihsnet.org/membership or call us today to set up a consultation at 607-776-9467 ext. 231.



Jason Jordan

Director, Communications & Member Services

Institute for Human Services, Inc.