Four years ago at a luncheon for Literacy Mid-South, I stood in front of a group of 200 nonprofit and corporate professionals and announced a series of new programming for our agency. Literacy Mid-South had been serving the Memphis community for four decades, and these were the biggest changes in the history of the organization. These programs marked our true transformation from the Memphis Literacy Council into the new Literacy Mid-South. As I ended the presentation, I said, “We don’t want to exist, but we have to. Let’s hope these new programs end up putting us out of business.”
It was as if I had farted directly into the microphone. The faces of the audience, many of who were our nonprofit partners, looked panicked or confused. Why on earth would I want to put Literacy Mid-South out of business? Why did I not end on a vision of massive expansion and growth? To this day, people still bring this up to me, either for clarification or to remark on its acumen. (I prefer the latter.)
When I came to Literacy Mid-South five years ago, I, like many first time executive directors, had visions of growth, expansion, mountains of foundation dollars, and books for every kid in Memphis. I would address the many struggles of the organization then lead it into a new era of prosperity. I’d be a hero, and illiteracy would be eradicated! Huzzah!
That’s not quite how it happened.