March 4, 2019

Operating in the Dark & Fog, Succeeding in the Unknown

In the fog, the cove was pitch black. I couldn’t see the radio tower across the bay, a star, or the shore. Earlier that afternoon, the tide caught us when we’d anchored too close to shore. Now at 10:30 p.m., the tide was rising.

We needed to move the boat or stay stuck until the following day.

It should have been easy. We just needed to putter 100 feet-the length of two semi-trailers or 40 steps. I’d seen the open water at dusk.

I turned on the engine, waited for my husband to pull the anchor, and put the engine into gear-a smidgen and watched us whizz forward. Only I was mistaken. My fog caused a lack of depth perception meant that what I perceived as a movement in feet was inches.

With the current, we were moving toward the shallows. My spouse, with ten times my nautical experience, saw what was happening, took over the wheel and motored us to deep water.

You, like me, probably prefer to operate in light. Nonetheless, sometimes you must move your nonprofit in the fog at night. Here are some examples of the foggy situations where my clients and prospects are asking me to guide them to deep water:

  • A major funder ends a program after a year instead of the expected three.
  • Setting up a new program amid political land mines
  • Dealing with shrinking nonprofit revenue despite efforts to reverse the trend
  • Obtaining planned gifts when staff has limited donor access
  • Growing donations when the board, despite encouragement, doesn’t help

Where are you operating in the fog at night? When you can’t operate in the bright light,
get help. Don’t sail alone.

Email Karen to set up a time to explore your opportunities to move to deep water.

For more answers, check out this Nonprofit CEO Library.

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Karen Eber Davis

Karen Eber Davis provides customized advising and coaching around nonprofit strategy and board development. People leaders hire her to bring clarity to sticky situations, break through barriers that seem insurmountable, and align people for better futures. She is the author of 7 Nonprofit Income Streams and Let's Raise Nonprofit Millions Together.


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