Summer brings us blockbuster movies, and this summer is no different. I for one cannot wait. One recent movie that I really enjoyed was “Air,” which tells the story of the rise of Nike and how its basketball division landed Michael Jordan as its ambassador. (It’s now streaming on Prime Video if you want to check it out.) I was especially intrigued by the Nike manifesto, which I noticed hanging on the wall in one of the scenes, and decided to investigate it further. I found it inspirational and wanted to share it with you.

Phil Knight, the founder of Nike, wrote the short manifesto for Nike in 1980. I decided to take each element and tease it out for the social sector for your consideration this summer.

1.    Our business is change.

Change is inevitable, but our reaction to it makes all the difference. Do we fight or ignore the change? Or do we embrace it, investigate it and continue to evolve? The nonprofits that have found the most long-term success and sustainability are committed to the 80/20 rule. To implement this in your own organization, spend 80% of the time ensuring your mission gets better and 20% of the time on what’s ahead by adapting to new needs from internal and external environments.

2.    We’re on offense. All the time.

Within the future-looking 20%, you are always looking for new ideas, new ways of working and trends that could make you better. This is why we publish our Annual Trends post each year. I always enjoy hearing when organizations are intentional about taking time in executive team meetings to talk about new ideas – for example, how many of your teams are talking about ChatGPT and its positive and possibly negative impacts on your organization?

3.    Perfect results count – not a perfect process.
Break the rules: fight the law.

It is true that perfect is the enemy of the good. Nonprofit work is about more than a shoe-selling business; it is life-changing and life-saving. Because the stakes are so high, we want to be perfect. But to ensure that we don’t get caught in “analysis paralysis,” we need to focus on making decisions early to pilot or try out new ideas.

4.    This is as much about battle as about business.

Just like Phil Knight, we believe competition is important to everyone. It pushes you farther. But we also believe in healthy doses of cooperation, collaboration and coopetition, too. In the social space, we need gentle rivalry to up our game.

5.    Assume nothing.
Make sure people keep their promises.
Push yourselves, push others.
Stretch the possible. 

When I read this, one word came to mind – retreats. The best way to do the above is ensure your team breaks away from the day-to-day and conducts a really inspiring and memorable retreat. A well-constructed retreat should push you as a team, reinforce accountability and allow you time to consider new ideas.

6.    Live off the land.

Phil Knight was ahead of his time in this sustainability goal – we wholeheartedly agree that it is our collective responsibility to protect our precious resources, but it is also helpful when organizations make it easy. Take a peek at our top tips from our Earth Day post.

7.    Your job isn’t done until the job is done.

Employee ownership is an emerging trend. Employees want to own their work, and employers want employees who are responsible for the outcomes of their work. In my opinion, that feeling of ownership starts with your organization’s culture. This summer you may want to dust off your values to ensure they are still working for you.

8.    Dangers
Personal ambition
Energy takers vs. energy givers
Knowing our weaknesses
Don’t get too many things on the platter

So many lessons packed into this one! For me, the overriding messages are self-care and avoiding the activity trap. Knowing ourselves, where our priorities lie and how to spend our time wisely can help us make the most progress for those we serve.

9.    It won’t be pretty.

There is no messier work than the nonprofit space. We are constantly juggling competing priorities. The key here is making sure you always go back to your center by staying close to your strategic plan and your metrics.

10. If we do the right things, we’ll make money damn near automatic. 

You have probably heard the phrase, “Without money, there is no mission.” But the reverse is also true, and it is at the core of the “flywheel effect” within our sustainability formula. If you do an excellent job at bringing impact to your community and you do a great job at telling your story and creating a brand for yourself, the revenue will come. It is nearly automatic.

courtesy of @mrexits on Twitter

When watching “Air” (or even watching Nike commercials), you just feel the energy of the Nike brand – pushing the status quo, rising above challenges and enjoying the company of other passionate individuals. By sharing this manifesto, we hope to give you a needed boost to seek Nike-like energy within your own organizations. We’d love to hear your thoughts on what’s inspiring you this summer.


Sign up to receive the Social TrendSpotter e-newsletter
Facebook Twitter Linkedin Email