Speed Bumps

The Great Food Truck Race is a reality show featuring celebrity chef Tyler Florence, along with teams of food trucks who compete for a $50,000 grand prize by traveling to different cities. Each are given a cooking challenge, and whoever makes the most money each week goes on to the next round. From time to time, the host will give the teams a “speed bump,” which is a universal challenge that requires teams to handle a nasty twist in a creative way. For example, they might have to suddenly move the location of their truck, cook without propane, or sell all their items for under $1.00. The speed bump is unexpected and forces the teams to problem solve and work together.

I can guarantee you’ve experienced a speed bump at your nonprofit or church. I can also say that every nonprofit I’ve dealt with—either working for them, volunteering, or serving as a board member—has encountered several speed bumps as well.  No one likes changes in plans, but how an organization takes on that speed bump can strengthen an organization and even gain trust from donors and volunteers. Does your team work together, or fall apart? Are you able to quickly come up with a Plan B or make a change without hurting those whom your mission serves? Good leaders find success in the day-to-day, but great leaders set themselves apart by finding success through the unexpected.

Some speed bumps can be daunting and require many people to solve. Weather-related tragedies like the hurricanes in Texas and Florida can be very challenging for a nonprofit or ministry. Maybe you have to make a decision for your organization that causes disruption, or have to make quick-witted adjustments that involve creative thinking. I’ve learned a lot from special event planners, who are experts in speed bumps. They’ll make an art out of thinking on their feet and calming others without disrupting the event in play.

Regardless if you are nonprofit leader, fundraiser, employee, executive, board member, volunteer, or pastor, speed bumps will happen, and usually when you least expect it. The best leaders are the ones who can navigate others using clear thinking, creativity and bringing staff and volunteers closer together without too much delay in your mission. If you want to become a better leader, think hard about how you’ll react when that smooth road starts to get bumpy.

Happy nonprofiting everyone!



Dan Kimball is a seasoned fundraiser with twenty years of experience in strategic fund development and nonprofit management. He’s currently developing Aplos’ Donor Management Platform to help nonprofits connect with (and cultivate!) their donor base.

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