Lessons from a Leaf Blower

| by Shannon Williams

Decades ago I bought my husband a leaf blower as a birthday present. Now before you judge, I am not normally a person who gives practical items as gifts. At the time, the leaf blower was a luxury. We were early in our marriage and home ownership. Money was tight. I paid $30 for this fancy gadget, and I fretted over whether it was worth the expense. Until that gift, rakes and brooms were our leaf collection options. 

Last week, more than 23 years after the gift was given, the blower died. It traveled to three different homes with us; was used by both of our boys, and for the last ten years has been attached weekly to 200 feet of extension cord to reach to the end of our driveway. It was a dinosaur by all standards, but it worked. 

Upon its death, my husband began doing careful research in pursuit of a worthy replacement. After reviewing dozens of options and reading hundreds of reviews, he chose a gas-powered model with a $129 price tag. 

Like a kid on Christmas, he unpackaged it, gassed it up, and cranked it. Vrrrrm! Air blew out of that thing like a mini tornado compared to our faithful original blower. What was once at least a 20-minute job—maybe longer if the cords got tangled—was cut in half. The new blower was incredibly more efficient. 

I see the very same thing in the non-profits I work with every day. Too often organizations live in fear of investing in themselves. They have tools that are “good enough” when there are incredible options out there that would dramatically enhance efficiencies. 

Whether you are an executive director or a board member, PLEASE encourage your staff to research options for tools that can enhance the delivery of your mission. Make it a part of their annual goals. Hold them accountable for proactively thinking about how your organization can be better instead of simply perpetuating the notion that non-profits cannot invest in themselves. You can! You should! 

You may not be able to pursue every idea or purchase every tool, but you need to consider them—weigh your options, plan for investment, fundraise for it. 

When our blower died, our son, Carson’s first reaction was, “Great! Now we can get a cordless one that will be so much better.” Jeff’s first thought was to replace it with something similar to what we had—it would be cheaper. Ultimately, Jeff chose to invest a little more in this tool—about $60 more than a corded option as a matter of fact—and it will pay off in no time. 

Actually it will pay off precisely in time. Our boys will have more time to do other chores since the blowing will take so much less time. We are already working on a list of things that need attention. Who knew that a modern blower could make the Williams family so much more efficient? 

What could a modern tool do for your organization?

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