klimkin / Pixabay

Although the summer months are a usually a quiet month, and I’ve had the opportunity to enjoy a fantastic vacation in Hawaii, I’ve still been busy at work. I’m in the process of writing two essential pieces of content. One is a book that will be published later this year, and the other is a resource paper that I’m developing with my partner, OneCause. You can look for the resource paper in September after Labor Day, so stay tuned.

Because I’ve been writing a lot, something that came up, which I don’t think many people know, is about the $20.3 million grant I was given by the World Shoe Association when I founded Soles4Soles. As you probably know, I’m no longer associated with Soles4Souls, but having obtained that grant for a nonprofit start-up is still one of the defining moments in my professional life.

Want to know the secret for getting that gift?

I’m going to write it here for you, and you’re going to be a little shocked because it’s so simple––and, yet it’s not.

The reason Soles4Souls was granted a $20.3 million start-up grant was my mindset and that of my team.

That’s it.

Yes, mindset.

What gives?

I can sit here today and write out the principles used for getting that grant, and you’ll be reading it soon in great detail in the OneCause resource paper in case you’re interested. But the foundational reason I was able to secure that gift with my team was that of mindset. There’s no reason the vast majority of nonprofit organizations have to have budgets of less than $1 million and more like something in the neighborhood of a couple of hundred thousand dollars if they don’t want to be at that level.

Any nonprofit leader can secure a significant gift, but it begins and ends with the mindset. Let me explain what gives in what I’m telling you.

When my team and I were working on securing the gift of that size, do you think that we experienced a lot of challenging hoops and even a bunch of no’s on the way to the yes? If you accept that fact as true and that we experienced lots of challenging situations, failures and no’s on the way to eventually get that gift, you would be correct. But, the difference between that $20.3 million check and, frankly, nothing, was our mindset.

What we didn’t do

First, we thought big and globally. I’m someone that is big on vision, and I’ve learned what it takes to get others to see something better for the world, even if it’s not yet present. But, every time we got push back or had to jump through a hoop that seemed incredibly daunting for an organization that was existing out of my home, I didn’t pick up the marbles and ask my team to leave my house so I could lock the door behind them.

Instead, my team and I tried to figure out solutions. We took the challenges that came up as learning opportunities. We stayed positive, and we kept chipping away. In other words, we didn’t quit and walk away.

If any member of my team would have said to me, “Wayne, this is impossible, of course, this would never work,” I would have asked them to leave. No one ever believed we couldn’t get a significant grant and we worked and developed ways, even if it took thinking and collaborating at all hours of the day and night, to figure out how to earn the full trust of the World Shoe Association.

Why I’m writing about mindset again

Decades ago, Jack Kerouac wrote the following:

“That’s the story.
That’s the message.
Nobody understands it,
nobody listens, they’re
all running around like chickens with heads cut
off. I will try to teach it but it will
be in vain…”

He was writing about a better world, and although he believed in that writing that no one would listen, I still think if I write consistently about a positive mindset as the ultimate tool for success, perhaps one nonprofit leader will get it in the end.


Author of “Not Your Father’s Charity: Grip & Rip Leadership for Social Impact”(Free Digital Download)

© 2018 Wayne Elsey and Not Your Father’s Charity. All Rights Reserved.