Deb understands the value of prioritizing both efficiency and process and shines in her capacity to support dynamic organizations to manage change and increase impact. She supported Mabel Wadsworth Center’s development of an ambitious three-year strategic plan, helping to facilitate leadership development and culture change during a period of rapid growth. With Deb’s support, the Center was able to strengthen its foundation and position itself to manage uncertainty, including an unstable political environment and the pandemic. She has a deep understanding of nonprofit dynamics, and offers a pragmatic style that is flexible, adaptive, and accessible.

Andrea Irwin, former Executive Director, Mabel Wadsworth Center, Bangor, Maine

Deb is a truly compassionate and wise guide. She skillfully supported The Dancing Elephant community to take important next steps in the middle of the pandemic. I most appreciated Deb’s ability to listen deeply and uncover the wisdom that existed within our leadership group. She empowered us to move forward with open hearts and clear action steps. Deb brings years of experience and understanding about complex organizational issues and human dynamics to any group she works with. She is genuinely warm-hearted in her approach, and her laugh adds lightness to the sometimes challenging work to be done!

Rachel Nixon, Founder of The Dancing Elephant, Rockland, Maine.


As a coach Deb is knowledgeable, accessible and dedicated in ways that make working together truly feel more like a trusted partnership rather than a business contract. And who doesn’t need a trusted partner pulling for them at the end of the day?

Janet Lewis, former Executive Director, Healthy Peninsula, Blue Hill, Maine

As a leadership coach, Deb is empathetic and inclusive, offering her valuable experience and expertise while also honoring individuals’ strength, inherent wisdom, and capacity for growth.

Deb quickly builds trust with her clients, providing both warmth and accountability in the coaching relationship, to help them realize their goals.

Deb has played an integral role in my personal leadership journey and I cannot imagine having paddled such challenging waters without her partnership. She is an exceptional human whose contributions to the nonprofit landscape in Maine are immeasurable. Thanks to Deb, I have greater confidence and clarity in my commitment to being a sustainable nonprofit leader.

Andrea Irwin, former Executive Director, Mabel Wadsworth Center, Bangor, Maine

LEADERSHIP FORUMS for Executive Directors

Challenges abound for every executive director, but one tried and true way to counter the onslaught is peer education and support. That’s where Deb Burwell and Paddling the Rapids come in. To be a “Paddler” means being part of a small group of like-minded nonprofit leaders who share knowledge, feedback and encouragement. If you are considering Paddling the Rapids, just go for it and reap the benefits!

Matt Murphy, General Manager, WERU Community Radio, Orland, Maine

Taking part in this Paddling the Rapids Leadership Forum has been one of the most amazing experiences of my professional life. This group was a big part of my professional success navigating the uncertain rapids that could have swallowed us during COVID and beyond.

Doreen Willett, Executive Director of Island Connections, Mount Desert Island, Maine

While exhilarating, the work as an executive director can be isolating, demanding and lonely. ‘Paddling the Rapids’ groups [are] designed to focus on the intricacies of being an Executive Director in the most supportive, productive and thought-provoking ways. Under the guidance of Deb’s skilled and empathetic facilitation, networking and problem solving with colleagues has led to deep professional development and trusting relationships that last far beyond the parameters of the group. Tempered with plenty of laughter, there are often a few tears along the way.

Janet Lewis, former Executive Director, Healthy Peninsula, Blue Hill, Maine


Deb’s passion for social justice and commitment to supporting organizations and leaders that are helping Maine to thrive is unmatched. Working across diverse sectors and regions, and with organizations of diverse size, mission, and life stage, she truly is the woman behind the curtain who brings out the best in each of us and inspires courageous, joyful, and sustainable leadership.

Andrea Irwin, former Executive Director, Mabel Wadsworth Center, Bangor, Maine

Paddling the Rapid LLC has a standing line in my annual non-profit budget. Working with Deb has been key to the success of the organization I lead.

Janet Lewis, former Executive Director, Healthy Peninsula, Blue Hill, Maine

Interested? Contact Deb Burwell with Paddling the Rapids (deb@paddlingtherapids.com) to arrange a time to explore whether a Paddling the Rapids Leadership Forum is a good match for you.

Contact: Deb Burwell

Skilled Facilitator and Strategic Planner Dedicated to Supporting Nonprofit and Community Leaders.


Like paddling the rapids,
Maine leaders are faced daily with many issues
and decisions competing for their
finite time, energy, and resources.

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