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Great American Solar Eclipse

What a rare treat this past Monday was!!  The Great American Solar Eclipse created quite a buzz here in the Twin-Cities, and while we weren’t totally dark, it was certainly a once in a generation kind of event.


Our nonprofit community is also facing once in a generation kind of events.  Technology innovations, increased competition for fundraising dollars, employee choice in the workplace, and more continue to create changes that lead to upheaval for once successful organizations.  All of this changes fundamentals that have led to success, and just like we’ve seen in the corporate world, it’s important to adapt and grow or fade into irrelevance.


As a young boy in Colfax, I can remember driving to College Hills Mall in the early 1980’s.  With Diamond Dave’s, Montgomery Ward, Carson-Pirie Scott and other retailers , it was the place to be.  Yet, 20 years later, it was a ghost town with maybe a dozen stores.


As workers from PATH, Big Brothers Big Sisters and UWMC watched the eclipse in front of our building, we shared a pair of glasses.  Without them, we couldn’t get a good view of why it had gotten dark in the middle of the day.


Maybe the owners in the early 2000’s looked at things through a different lens, too.  Maybe they stopped to consider what led to the declining revenue at College Hills.  Certainly consumer preferences changed between 1980 and the early 2000’s.  Technology and competition evolved dramatically during that span as well.  Now, traditional thinking may have tried to salvage it by emphasizing more of the same: more anchor stores, more boutique shops, investing more time and money in attempts to make an old model work well again.


But through their “special glasses”, perhaps they recognized a growing trend.  They tore down everything, but the three anchor stores at different ends of the structure.  From the wreckage, they crafted a new concept.


The Shoppes at College Hills rose in the place of enclosed halls and sunny atriums.  Now a thriving outdoor mall with a variety of offerings, it’s been reborn.


Much like Monday’s eclipse, these changes we’re facing have unfolded in a way that casts odd shadows and gloom during unexpected times, and without the right framework to consider the events, without “special glasses”, it can be easy to be consumed by uncertainty and fear.


For those who don’t know me, I’m a glass half-full kind of guy.  As similar changes contribute to upheaval in our nonprofit world, I see opportunities.  As we consider how we’ve done things, it’s important that we step back for a moment and consider the possibilities.


After a little while, as the moon moved, the sun shined bright again, and things returned to normal, I was reminded of a saying, of which I’m sure most of you have heard some version.  “It’s not what happens to you in life.  It’s how you react.”  At UWMC, we’re donning our special glasses, and we’re going to get to work in adapting to changes and making our community the best it can be.