• Amy Clark

If It's a Marathon, Why Are We Sprinting?

Updated: Aug 5, 2018

I have several friends training for a marathon this fall, and the training regimen has a standard set of components. It builds up the runner's distance, strength and endurance from disciplined practice. Little by little, the training prepares the runners for the race.

So often, it becomes easy for organizations that are in the race to rally around exciting initiatives after a shift in momentum. The catalyst may be a new strategic direction, or perhaps an unexpected funding opportunity that births new ideas. There may be new visibility brought to the organization, causing desire to reach new audiences.

Sometimes without even realizing it, we launch into a sprint to solve the problem, fill the need, or answer the external call to action with the same resources that could barely get the job done on a regular day. Efforts get pooled towards the new initiative and the mindset of the organization becomes focused on the now; what can we do right now to seize this opportunity? The mission work that brought forth the opportunity, may even get set aside, as resources get diverted to the sprint.

But, what happens when we finish the resource-draining sprint and remember we are actually running a marathon? It becomes easy to find ourselves sprinting for the new, and sprinting to catch up to work we set aside, and the marathon becomes something we cannot even fathom.

This is a simplistic depiction of a nonprofit starvation cycle which can easily fall into a pattern of chasing short-term wins vs. driving long-term strategy. The cycle of trying to do it all with minimal overhead vs. being able to build in the overhead you really need to sustain the work. This is a common struggle many small nonprofits, with limited resources and competing demands, are forced to maneuver every day.

Staying in sprint mode may bring wins that are good initially, but it runs the risk of running down resources and skewing the strategic path of your organization. What we often fail to anticipate, are all the secondary impacts of slightly veering from the mission, and how little shifts can compound. The subtle pulls from our core business, along with added need for unique processes and new systems to achieve the short-term wins, can impact the organization's ability to go the distance.

  • What if we could find a way to shift this paradigm?

  • What if we could cultivate what we need to support our core mission work AND allow space for innovative exciting opportunities?

  • What if we were always training for the marathon, thus allowing us to choose our sprints when it aligns to our strategic goals?

Good news! There are thousands of people who have run marathons that never thought they could. People that thought a sprint was the only amount of capacity and distance they could handle in the present. Leaders, we can shift our nonprofit organizations to build capacity, embrace strong agile infrastructures and to articulate the overhead we need to go the distance.

Take on your day, and Awaken the Potential in your organization.


Let’s connect and discuss how we could partner to help your organization go the distance.

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