Four benefits of turning tough times into teachable moments

Everywhere these days, organizational leaders are on the hunt for a short-cut route out of the economic doldrums in which the nonprofit sector finds itself. Budgets are tight, with little relief in sight. And staff are weary from being asked to make do for yet another year. The last thing most folks want to hear is that there are advantages to having less.

Yet that’s the perky message with which Editorial Director Martha Mangelsdorf begins the Winter issue of the MIT Sloan Management Review.  It’s her observation that “in many situations, scarce resources can inspire creativity and creative solutions to problems.” She thinks that

Limited — or better focused — by specific rules and constraints, we are more likely to recognize an unexpected idea . . . Would-be innovators facing constraints are more likely to find creative analogies and combinations that would otherwise be hidden under a glut of resources.


As for me, I like to think of tough times as a series of teachable moments — and especially so for CEOs and boards of faith-based organizations.  Embracing the learning opportunities that come with a rocky economy can:

  • open our eyes to the truly amazing generosity of God’s people and help us to be more appreciative of the gifts we receive, regardless of size. When it comes to growing givers’ hearts, gratitude is essential.
  • encourage us to work smarter and to maximize every resource available to us.Donors notice when organizational leaders are wise stewards of the funds entrusted to them – when gifts are leveraged for even greater Kingdom impact.
  • teach us patience and remind us that God’s view of time is very different than ours. As we rest in the confidence of God’s abundance, we’re less inclined to push donors toward hasty decisions that can work against our desire to create faith nurturing giving experiences.
  • take the focus off of us and our organizations and turn our eyes instead to what God can do through me and my organization. At the end of the day, abundance comes via the divine at work in donors’ hearts.

The everyday miracle of God’s abundance is this:  More often than we expect, the basics of what we need to get the job done are already within our grasp.

What's your take on this topic?

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