Nonprofit Expert
The Lessons of the Yellow Brick Road
Home » Topics of interest for nonprofits » The Lessons of the Yellow Brick Road

The Lessons of the Yellow Brick Road

The Road To Oz Is paved With Good Intentions

By David F. Condon, Chairman and CEO, Diversified Nonprofit Services, LLC

Follow the “Yellow Brick Road” to the Land of Oz where all your troubles will be gone, there are no worries, and only happiness and good feeling abound. A land where there is only success and a benevolent old wizard has the answers to all of your problems.

You may ask yourself; what on earth does this mythical Land of Oz, from L. Frank Baum’s classic children’s story, have to do with fund raising, today. For many, I am afraid, the expectations that come with a new fund raising project and Dorothy’s journey down the Yellow Brick Road are cut from similar fantasies. However, if we can employ some childlike imagination and a keen eye for imagery much can be learned from the metaphors and symbolism which inhabit Baum’s timeless tale.

Stop, if you will, and reflect on your feelings when embarking on a new fund raising project. You, your organization, and your volunteers are filled with the hope and expectations of success which will see all your needs met and which will result in a happy ending. So too, did Dorothy start out from Munchkin Land down the Yellow Brick Road with these same hopes and expectations.

In the first stages of her memorable journey Dorothy encountered the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodsman, and Cowardly Lion, fellow travelers, who like herself were looking for the answers to their questions, the solutions to their problems, and were willing to traverse the Yellow Brick Road to have their needs met as well.

You too, will encounter fellow travelers in your quest for Oz. The travelers you encounter also have needs and wants and are striving to attain their goals and they have embarked on their journey with the same expectations of success which inspired your trip. Thus the journey begins for you and for your organization and those like you, all certain that the Wizard will have the means, will, and desire to provide for all your wants and needs.

Obstacles To Avoid On Your Trip To Oz

An Apple A Day?

The journey to Oz commences with the carefree attitude and abandon which marks the start of all journeys. However, very soon you begin to encounter obstacles along the way. At first they may be small obstacles which like the apple trees that were tricked by Dorothy and the Scarecrow into throwing their delicious fruit at them, can actually prove to be a benefit to the trip. These minor obstacles can be easily overcome and through effective planning and management techniques can in many cases actually be turned into a benefit for your journey.

Apple Tree Obstacles

Easily Overcome and May Even Prove Beneficial

Lack of Community Image
Lack of Community Awareness
No Knowledge of Your Volunteer Leadership
Lack of General Knowledge
Number of People You Serve
Number and Types of Programs You Offer
Successes You Have Achieved

Soon, however, you begin to encounter more serious obstacles. You find yourself in the deepest, darkest, forest and confronting the infamous Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh My! These dangerous animals have the potential to derail your entire project and put a premature end to your trip down the Yellow Brick Road to success.

Lion and Tigers and Bears, Oh My! Should Be Feared But Can Be Overcome Through Effective Planning And Anticipation

Ineffective Weak Programs
Failure to Improve a Negative Image
Failure to Get You Message to the Community
Weak Ineffective Leadership
Lack of Clearly Defined Roles for the Executive Director and Board of Directors
Lack of Planning
Lack of Clearly Assigned Responsibilities for All Tasks

You’re Melting, Melting, Melting! The Wicked Witch of the West

Finally, you may find yourself facing the most dreaded obstacle of all, The Wicked Witch of the West, who with a single sweep of her broom can doom your journey to defeat causing you to wonder aimlessly. Not knowing in what direction to turn. It is these later more difficult obstacles which must be anticipated prior to departing on your trip and for which contingencies must be put in place in anticipation of encountering them to insure that they do not block the road to your success.

These Will Kill Your Project

Lack of Board Support for the Project
Failure to Establish the Need
Lack of Follow Through
Confusion Surrounding the Responsibility for Assignments
Lack of Community Involvement and Ownership
Failure to Anticipate All of the Above

Once you and your organization have traversed this road and have risen to meet every challenge; once the Lions and Tigers and Bears are no more and the Witches of the West have melted into obscurity you are faced with perhaps the greatest challenge of all, unlocking the gate to the Emerald City so that you can come face to face with the Wizard. Once given this audience you must then convince the Wizard to help you attain your final and ultimate goal. It is at this juncture and this juncture only that you come to the realization that there is no special magic in Oz, there is no one Wizard who has all your answers, and there is no mythical formula that dictates success.

You come to understand that what you needed to succeed is what you have had all along. It is the belief in your cause, the belief in your volunteers, the knowledge the you are fulfilling the needs of your community, and the belief in your organization which enables you to overcome each and every obstacle along the way. It is these same beliefs which must be conveyed to all the Wizards of this world in order to secure their help in making your dreams come true and which will make your organization ultimately successful in accomplishing its’ mission.