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What Roundabouts and Nonprofits Have in Common

Sue and I were very fortunate recently to enjoy an island getaway for a few days. The location was beautiful, the weather was picture perfect, the hotel and its services first rate. But that’s not what I want to blog about today. Rather, it was the journey to get there.

Arriving at an idyllic location that you’ve never been to before at 10:00 in the evening may sound romantic and intriguing. But I’d like to categorize the experience differently. How about, “Oh my God, we’ll never do that again!” In so many ways, it reminded me of the journeys nonprofits needlessly take to raise money. More about that later.

You see, what we didn’t take into account was that the darkness on a remote island is all encompassing. We even saw real bright, shiny stars in the sky — dozens of them. Living in the Chicagoland area, who knew or remembered from their childhood that the sky had so many stars?

We also didn’t plan for the roads; one lane going this way and another going that way with no room for error in between. Every once-in-a-while be’d me met by the wonderful world of roundabouts. Get in one of these and you may never come out the same. And our map gave us no prior indication that our hotel would be located at the top of a mountain via a zig-zaggy road that left the driver (me) and the navigator (Sue) in various states of exhaustion and panic. More than once Sue said to me, “Ron, why don’t we just go back to the airport, give them the car and call a taxi.” Sarcastically, I thought to myself, a taxi? Why not a limo? I’m sure they’re just lined up waiting for a call on this tiny island. Not!

When we did get to the top of the mountain about 90 minutes after starting out we were met by an immovable object, a traffic control gate with one word on it: Stop! As we were ever so carefully backing up to turn around when we saw another car coming up the same road. We flagged it down and asked the driver for directions to our destination. Taking kind pity on 2 lost souls, the lady driver said, “Follow me, it’s right near where I’m going.”

To our surprise, she pressed a button next to the gate with the Stop! sign on it and what do you know, the gate opened. Up, over, around and across just a few more turns and, at long last, there we were at our resort. We thanked the good samaritan for her help and then thanked Providence for getting us to our hotel safely.

All of which brings me back to how this experience reminds me of so many nonprofits who, like your intrepid and unknowing traveler here, have an idea of where they want to get to but have no plan to get them there. If we’d had a plan, done our research, in other words, we would have asked if it was easy to find the hotel at night, for example.

Do you have a plan? Or do you decide on-the-fly when you should do an appeal. A road map, in other words, to your fundraising paradise, if not, perhaps we should talk.

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