Being prepared crosses all parts of life in small “Do I have my mask?” “Am I off mute?” ways and in big “Do I have the necessary supplies for the approaching hurricane?” ways.

Last weekend our oldest son moved into his first adult apartment. This was a pretty big deal in the scale of preparedness. He spent weeks communicating with the leasing agent, gathering furniture (thanks Staci Barfield), working with Jeff and I to coordinate the details of the move, and packing up all his stuff.

When he arrived as scheduled, the agent said, “I thought you were coming tomorrow.” Sigh. To his credit, Devin reminded her that they had agreed to this schedule. Her next response, “No problem. We are ready for you.” He signed the necessary paperwork, paid his rent, went through the community living guidelines, and received his keys.

We walked to his new home. He unlocked the door and we entered only to find the apartment in complete disarray. It had not been touched since the last renter moved. In fact, there was still food in the refrigerator. Gross!

Devin calmly went back to the leasing agent and asked her to come to the apartment. When she walked in, she was appalled. She thought the apartment was ready for him, but it was not. Ultimately, she was able to place him in a different building in an upgraded apartment at the same rent—it worked out. However, there were SO many lessons packed in here:

  1. It is difficult to over communicate. Even though Devin was confident that the move-in date was solidified, one more communication might have helped. In the nonprofit world, we often think our donors, prospects, volunteers, and staff know the details of fill in the blank. In most cases, an extra communication can go a long way.
  2. Don’t assume. We all know what happens when you do. The leasing agent assumed the apartment was ready. She did not actually check. When we walked into the disheveled apartment, we were ready to look at a new community altogether. In the nonprofit world, we assume that volunteers, staff, or board members know what needs to be done. We often forget the value of intentional onboarding and training to position them for success. We follow this with frustration when they don’t do what we assumed they would.
  3. You can do everything you are supposed to do and someone else lets you down. In the nonprofit world, this can come in the form of a donor who opts not to invest when you thought she would or a board member who does not show up for the most important meeting of the year. Like Devin, you must remain calm and work through the situation. Your preparation is critical, but when you are relying on others it is only one part of the equation.
  4. Sometimes, you have to take a leap of faith and stay the course. Devin had everything he owns packed in a small U-Haul truck and his car when he headed to his new home. He left excited that morning, only to have that confidence shaken by the state of the first apartment. In the nonprofit world, we spend time developing strategic plans, mapping our theories of change, and modeling our futures, only to face unforeseen circumstances—like a global pandemic. Yes, we must be flexible enough to adapt, but we must use the work we have done in planning to inform our decisions going forward.

Whether you are moving into your first apartment or leading a nonprofit, preparedness is essential, but so are communication, flexibility, and confidence. Ultimately, you may not be able to predict the obstacles that pop up, but your preparation will help you stay calm and work through whatever comes your way—even a two-week old pizza left in the fridge.

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