Heather Comstock Connects

Helping nonprofits and other volunteer organizations develop strong relationships and a clear voice in the community.

Road Runners and The Land of Tomorrow

The neighborhood road runner! My camera doesn’t do the big fella justice and capture his rakish attitude and good looks!

I am visiting the Land of Enchantment. For this Easterner, it feels more like the land of Entrapment. The pace here is driving me bonkers. My mother and her friends are all Eastern refugees who have adapted to life here. “It’s Manana*, you know, Spanish for Tomorrow” they explain, “New Mexico Time”. The heat causes people to slow down, siesta in the afternoon, and generally take things slow. Eventually things will be done and if they aren’t, no worries.  There’s always tomorrow.  It is a study in contrast that the state bird is the Road Runner which can reach speeds of 20 mph – pursuing coyotes not withstanding.

I recently followed a lively discussion in one of the groups on Linked In where members were arguing that the fact that the nonprofit sector was adding over 40,000 organizations annually might not be a good thing. Some of the opinions were on the side that this phenomenon was a massive duplication of effort and others thought that smaller organizations were often the only ones serving needs in some communities that would otherwise be missed.

Like the culture of New Mexico which balances the tension of “Manana”* and the speedy Roadrunner, the nonprofit sector benefits from a balance of opposing forces.

Smaller, local nonprofits versus larger, national nonprofits

  • While national nonprofits often have resources and reputations that raise major money, they don’t often have the local sensitivity that can make or break a program or a fundraising plan.  An example is my own Eastern pace would do more harm than good if I plowed into the nonprofit sector here without taking time to learn and understand the culture.  The same could be said for an organization with a huge headquarters in New York, D.C., or California trying to dictate operations and programs in a place like rural New Mexico.

Professional nonprofit staff versus dedicated volunteers

  • Passionate individuals who want to help fix a problem in their community don’t always have the experience that could help the organization to grow such as grant writing, financial management, or fund development. That said, many times, we professionals can get so caught up in strategic planning, measuring outcomes, and other management tools that we forget the human side of the story or the fact that you can’t always measure success with neat metrics on a spreadsheet.

Many nonprofits versus fewer nonprofits

  • One of the most interesting perspectives was offered by someone who was involved with a grant-making foundation. She felt that newer, smaller, nonprofits were often more innovative and flexible than the larger organizations which could be hamstrung by their own infrastructure. She felt the sector benefits from these new upstarts whose approach challenges the status quo.

Part of travel is to expand horizons and perspectives. I am going to accept the fact that I am a roadrunner in the land of Manana. Not a bad role model, all things considered!

*I apologize for my technical ineptness that prevented me from spelling it correctly with the tilde over the n!

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