Heather Comstock Connects

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

Cliff Driving

A view from the driver’s seat on the way into Yosemite!

This week I visited Yosemite National Park in California. In looking at the map, it looked like a pretty straightforward drive. Hop in the car, head the right way, and in a few hours, voila, visiting one of the most famous national parks in the U.S. Except, it didn’t quite turn out that way. To get into the park and then down to the valley floor to the main visitor center, there are some very scary roads that must be navigated. The whole experience had some great parallels for nonprofits.

  1. We had a plan. We had allocated resources. Yet, it took longer and more energy to get there than anticipated. The distances on the map can be deceiving. It took longer because the conditions dictated that we move slower than we would on a straight freeway. If we hadn’t had a plan at all, it would have been easy to ditch the whole thing and turn back and driven aimlessly around wasting resources and time.
  2. It was pretty scary. There were no guardrails in most places and you are winding along with not much to keep you from plunging off the side of a mountain. As the driver, I didn’t get to enjoy the scenery but had to stay focused on the road ahead to keep us moving. When things get bumpy with your organization, do you have a steady driver who can stay focused on the road ahead and not get distracted?
  3. Once we got there, we found everybody else. We never made it into the Visitor’s Center because it was so crowded. We got there late in the afternoon and just added to the mass of people sightseeing so we ditched the idea and headed out of the park. I served as an Executive Director of an organization really wanted a different to helping clients. We put our strategic plan in place and worked it and eventually discovered, we ended up at the same place as everyone else. We had gotten trapped into the same ways of doing things as everyone else and we had let others tell us how we should be serving clients. We scrapped our plan and goals and made new ones that better reflected our vision. Don’t let where the crowd dictate your destination or be afraid to start over if you discover the destination doesn’t serve the vision.

Has this ever happened to you?  How did you keep your nonprofit on course despite twisty roads and unexpected barriers?


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