Add “Vibrancy” to the Nonprofit Conversation

According to Merriam-Webster the simple definition of “vibrant” is having or showing great life, activity and energy; very bright and strong; and loud and powerful as it relates to sound.  Most would say that this word is extremely positive. It is a word of distinction. And an attribute to aspire to!

We are fortunate to live in a special place that exudes vibrancy. Our community is moving forward in so many key areas: the arts, education and economic development to name a few. Many of our citizens walk the streets of Greenville with a strong sense of pride #yeahthatgreenville. And while we have much to be proud of, there is always work to be done. Vibrancy is not a static condition; it is an ongoing process that requires focus and nurturing. Each success should fuel the next one.

As we consider the attributes of vibrancy, we pose the following question to our nonprofit friends: “Does doing good work equate to vibrancy?” We have seen much important work performed by passionate individuals who lead mission-driven organizations. They work tirelessly to improve the quality of life in our community. Yet, as we look toward the future, we imagine the expansive possibilities for Greenville, when every leader considers “vibrancy” as a critical component of how they lead their organizations.

Vibrant organizations live their brands.

They have clarity of vision, mission and values; and they live them every day through their brand. They effectively manage their external identity so that it resonates with the organization’s internal reality.

Vibrant organizations have different conversations.

They focus on “what is” AND on “what could be.”  Discussions are framed with openness, curiosity and candor leading to enlightened thinking. The words they use are intentional and not taken for granted. Their vocabulary is highly relevant and sets the tone to support vibrancy, the cornerstone of transforming from good to great.

Vibrant organizations celebrate diverse voices.

All are welcome and included. Every voice is heard and valued with no judgments issued. And agendas are left at the door. These organizations encourage their staff and board to identify, recognize and leverage the shared and unique values of diverse perspectives and cultures.

Vibrant organizations inform and engage intentionally.

They foster a culture of transparency and interaction among leadership, staff and others associated with the organization. This culture encourages accountability and pride in one’s work and establishes a strong foundation for innovation and creativity. Lack of transparency can easily result in workplace silos, ineffective decision-making, and disengagement.

Vibrant organizations ask questions to solve complex problems.

Vibrant leaders understand that to find answers it is best to start with insightful questions. They encourage those around them to reflect on and ask questions about organizational strategies. These leaders understand the difference between risks and prudent risks and are willing to take prudent risks in order to achieve great rewards.

Vibrant organizations recognize the value of authentic collaborations.

They see the strength in others and recognize they can’t do it alone.  They are able to abandon their individual agendas and come together with others to ask questions and define problems. By building trusting relationships they are then able to create a shared vision and act upon it.

Choosing the pathway to vibrancy is a courageous act that may require changes to how we lead our organizations and ourselves. It would be much easier to take the path of least resistance and continue doing what has always been done – defaulting to the status quo.

As supporters and cheerleaders, we encourage and challenge Greenville’s nonprofit leaders to assess their current cultures and dream bigger about what is possible. Design strategies that are built upon bold, authentic conversations and diverse voices. Keep your stakeholders engaged and informed. Ask difficult questions to help identify solutions to complex internal and external problems. Always start with the end in mind. Be the change agents that drive your organizations and our community forward toward greater vibrancy.

On July 12th Shine the Light Nonprofit Forums will present “Creating a Vibrant Organization that Fosters Forward Thinking,” at The Warehouse Theatre. This hands-on workshop will focus on The Vibrancy Continuum and how nonprofit leaders can move toward vibrancy.  Visit for more information.

Debbie Nelson ARP_8205 crop 1Debbie Nelson

President of DNA Creative Communications and Founder of Shine the Light Nonprofit Forums



Tan Kirby Davis PhotoTan Kirby Davis

President and Lead Consultant of Tan Davis Consulting & Facilitation





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Debbie Nelson

Debbie Nelson is the president and founder of DNA Creative Communications, a woman-owned public relations and inspirational marketing firm for nonprofit organizations. Under Debbie’s leadership, in 2010 DNA founded Shine the Light Nonprofit Forums, an annual training program for Greenville nonprofits in partnership with the Community Foundation of Greenville County, the United Way of Greenville County and the Hollingsworth Funds. To support other nonprofits across the state, she also manages education programs for the South Carolina Association of Nonprofit Organization. As an a advocate for the nonprofit community, each month Debbie shares nonprofit stories in her Shine the Light columns in the Greenville Business Magazine and the Columbia Business Monthly. In addition she teaches nonprofit marketing at Clemson University to inspire and develop future nonprofit leaders. Debbie is a graduate of Leadership Greenville, Leadership South Carolina and the Riley Institute’s Diversity Leadership Initiative. She currently serves on the boards of the Greenville Area Development Corporation, the South Carolina Independent Colleges and Universities, the United Way of Greenville County and the United Way Association of South Carolina.

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