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Speed Bumps In Your Nonprofit Organization

by Dan Kimball

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. They are each 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.” It 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, so it forces the teams to problem solve and work together.

Experiencing Speed Bumps

You have probably experienced speed bumps or challenges in your nonprofit organization. Every nonprofit I’ve dealt with—either working for them, volunteering, or serving as a board member—has encountered several speed bumps. It’s tough dealing with the unexpected. No one likes their plans to change, but how an organization takes on that speed bump can strengthen them, and even help them gain trust from donors and volunteers.

Does your team work together or fall apart? Is your nonprofit organization able to face challenges head on and quickly come up with a Plan B? Or make a change without hurting those you serve? Good leaders find success in the day-to-day operations. 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 any organization. Maybe you have to make a decision 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 of whether you are a nonprofit leader, fundraiser, employee, executive, board member, or volunteer, speed bumps will happen. Usually when you least expect them. Facing challenges is inevitable for nonprofits. The best leaders can navigate others using clear thinking, creativity, and bringing staff and volunteers closer together without too much delay in their mission. If you want to become a better leader, think hard about how you’ll respond when that smooth road starts to get bumpy.

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