A Tale of Two Saturdays

View from an airplane window at the wings and flying over a scenic landscape of green hills and rivers

On Saturday, February 20, one of my clients raised a lot of money for her non-profit organization. So get this–in this crippled economy and after key internal leadership transitions she capably managed a large event team that raised over $625,000 (over 65% increase over the year before) and reduced the expenses by over 20% (total expenses for this event were 28%!) all the while making dear friends and generous supporters for the cause. And remarkably, she created a deep and lasting relationship between the four event co-chairs and her organization. What a day!

On Saturday February 27, exactly one Saturday later, I was at my sister’s home an ocean away. She lives on Maui. Yet the morning was a frenzy, waking to tsunami sirens and a panicked family. A lot of fear in the home and all over the islands. The news reports were alarming and the requests to the citizens of Hawaii were clear: prepare for the worst. At 11:19 AM we would experience the full impact of a surging sea on Maui’s north shore.

The worst never came. Nothing.

1. Be prepared. Have a “Plan B” for quirky audio/video or if a speaker is stuck. Anticipate challenges and problems and course-correct before they unfold. Have back stocks of batteries, light sources, non-perishable foods. Keep the car full of gas. Have cash on hand. Have supplies of extra medications and a first aid kit.

2. Have a network of close and capable people nearby. Look after one another. Trust. Care. Show up and do what needs to be done. Be easy and kind. Acknowledge one another.

3. Have a plan. Know who is available and the roles they will play. Know who has responsibility and/or authority. Know who is the decider of last resorts and on which issues. Know where there is higher ground. Know where there is temporary shelter. Know where there are passable roads. Know who the point person is to be called on when needed.

4. Keep your wits. Sometimes stress looks controlling or impatient or short tempered; it’s just stress. Sometimes fear looks controlling or impatient or short tempered; it’s just fear. Sometimes behaviors have nothing to do with you and are just natural expressions of a larger thing. Roll with it in the moment. Clean it up later.

5. Stay focused, busy, on task. In some cases, doing something is better than doing nothing. Set a goal. Dream big. Be Mission-driven. It is pretty simple–One Saturday, raise money. The next Saturday, stay safe.

6. Debrief, reflect, and grow. Review what worked, what was useful, what was skillful. Deconstruct events to learn for the next time. Celebrate and savor success. Know when to move on.

Perhaps you can replace the topics of fundraising event and tsunami preparations with any number of topics and see the value of the take-always I listed. For non-profit leaders consider how the take-aways listed can support your strategic planning process or board leadership recruitment efforts. How might the list aid your management of staff or volunteers? Think about it…

I wonder what this coming Saturday will hold.


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Gary M. Groth, MS, PCC, CPCC

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