Problems don’t fix themselves in nonprofits…or any other business

Sun, May 27, 2012 at 11:10AM

strategic planning nonprofit

Before the start of each NASCAR race, drivers and their crew chiefs attend a pre-event safety briefing. They are reminded, “Problems with your car don’t fix themselves.”

Race teams are advised that malfunctions such as loose wheels or mechanical failures need to be attended to and “drivers should not stay out on the track and risk wrecking themselves or someone else.”

Riverside, Alabama, Mayor Rusty Jessup (when responding to my survey to determine why board members don’t do what they’re supposed to do) called it the 800-pound gorilla in the room. Issues such as funding shortfalls, volunteer retention, board participation, or a retiring CEO must be dealt with.

What is the gorilla your nonprofit or association needs to face in order to avoid a big wreck?

Regardless of how large or small a challenge is, putting off taking action only makes the situation worse. Here are five action suggestions for addressing an issue your organization may be facing:

  • Recognize that you have a problem and develop leadership buy-in for dealing with it. While that may sound like a no-brainer, many organizations are not willing to take on a tough challenge and, through their in-action, they are choosing to ignore what could come back to bite them.
  • In their book Switch, Chip and Dan Heath suggest that sometimes a problem can be so be big that resolution seems unachievable. They recommend taking small steps toward the solution that add up to a cumulative effect.
  • Identify solution options and get support for action decisions.
  • Commit time and resources necessary for the correction process and make it a priority. Consider utilizing outside resources to help.
  • Take action and communicate the results to those interested parties who want to see your organization succeed.

Just as for NASCAR competitors, your problems won’t fix themselves. Don’t put off correcting what may keep you from achieving your all important mission.


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