The Power of Purpose

As a new season begins at Gaining Ground, we are in the wonderful position of staffing our office and fields with talented and knowledgeable professionals who are returning for another year. In the eight years that I have been involved, I don’t think we have ever had so many people returning. We are set up for another successful year provided, of course, that our other team member, Mother Nature, cooperates! I have been thinking a lot about why so many great people have chosen to devote their time and talents to Gaining Ground. What attracts them to this farm and this nonprofit? I think it is the combination of factors described in the book, Drive, by Daniel Pink. The author’s contention is that people are motivated by purpose, autonomy, and mastery.

  • Purpose is easy to understand when you work for a nonprofit. We grow food to give away to people in need. It is hard to think of a more noble cause.
  • Autonomy is the ability to direct your own work. Our office and farm staff know what they are trying to achieve. They use their knowledge and experience to decide how to be successful. Their results speak for themselves. Whether it is the efficient administration of the organization, the management of the farm, or the connection to volunteers, recipient organizations, and donors—our staff does a beautiful job.
  • Mastery is the desire to improve. We can see that at work year over year. The farmers hone their no-till farming practices, growing healthier food while improving the soil. New field crew join and stay to learn more. Outreach events are planned, refined, and executed. Like any good organization, we critique our work to improve over time.

I’m fortunate to have a front-row seat to witness the great work done by good people for the benefit of others.