Surviving Nonprofit Heart Break: How to Turn Crushing Experiences into Wins

Surviving Vision Block I was pinned under a 200-pound guy, and he had scissors. The volunteer assignment was simple: help a young man with developmental disabilities to learn a new skill, one-on-one.  We were working on learning scissor use.

How did I end up flailing on the floor needing assistance?

I had a clear goal for my college volunteering experience: Explore different ways to help people reach excellence.

What I didn’t anticipate were my physical limits. I am what fashion designers call petite and too small to work with an enthusiastic football-team-sized partner.

You get stuck like this, too. You begin a new idea. It goes well for a while until you get flattened under roadblocks or stuck behind barriers that stymie forward movement. A clear path to your vision eludes you.

You have vision block.

Suddenly, what seemed brilliant gets crushed under a semi-truck of challenges. It’s disappointing. It’s frustrating. You might even ask: Is my goal possible? (See “The Gap Between Now and Your Vision” for how alternate strategies work to reach your vision.)

After years of focusing on my lifetime goal of helping people reach excellence, I’ve come up with a dozen techniques that blow vision blocks to smithereens. Here’s are three:

  1. Small Chunks. Now, if you saw a petite volunteer working with the football team-sized player, you would immediately reassign people for a better fit. Do you provide the same kindness for yourself? Do you adjust your vision steps to fit your time and resources? What would a simple step toward progress look like? Don’t forget your vision, instead right-sized it for now.

For example, a client wants his board members to identify prospects for sponsorships. Instead of pushing at all of the board members to help and getting crushed under their resistance, after some coaching, he approaches two of his board champions. Together they identify three possibilities. Then, with this as an example, he approaches a third and board member.

In six months, the client increases the organization’s sponsorships by 100 percent.

  1. Toss the Rules. We set imaginary rules for ourselves. Sometimes we don’t even know we created them. For instance, you decide, “We have to get a grant for this.” After you get no after no, you get crushed. Suspend the rule! Imagine not following “best practices.” Try something fresh.

In 7 Nonprofit Income Streams, read about Bok Tower Gardens rule toss. Staff was stuck about how to fund a 1929 mansion. So instead of following the “get a grant approach,” they changed what happened when visitors arrived at their site.

And, they increased the mansion’s income by 300 percent.

  1. Flip the Block. Do you remember the Rubik Cube? To solve this 3-D puzzles, you flip cube pieces until the patterns on all sides match. To blow up your vision blocks, flip your actions to turn blocks into advantages. My story of being pinned as a volunteer-led to this post. Likewise, all blocks hide advantages. Explore the block and find them.

A CEO is called for jury duty. But, instead of a hardship, she sees the day as an opportunity to educate people about her mission.

Early on the first day of jury duty, she began a relationship with a person who is six months becomes a favorite board member.

Today’s Challenge 

Some people give up on their vision.

Not you.

You reach out to grab a hand. You struggle to wiggle free.

Let me know what you discover using these techniques or if you want to talk about what else is possible to blow your vision blocks to smithereens.

It Doesn’t Have to Be Lonely at the Top

woman standing in front of maze

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