In Take Heed Nonprofits: The Sky is Not Falling, but it’s Cloudy we loed at trends in giving and how this might impact your strategic fundraising planning. Some of the data-based take-aways included: Less Donors and Dollars Overall Less Individual Donors — Shrinking Slice of Fundraising Pie More Foundation and Corporate Giving Focus of Giving…Details
Philanthropic giving has been on a downswing for a while, but this past year’s data is notable due to distinct changes in donor behavior. I don’t want you throwing your hands up in despair. Rather, I want you to take a good hard lo at the data so you can develop a plan with strategies…Details
Ready to declare your independence from the pandemic of overloaditis?
It’s a highly contagious epidemic, from which no one is immune.
Are you showing any symptoms?
Consider which of the following are true for you:
I feel like:
- I’m working all the time, but not getting that much accomplished.
- I’m working on 10 projects at once, but none get finished.
- My ‘to-do’ list never gets completed.
- I’m in meetings all day and don’t have time to work.
- I bring my laptop to meetings and pretend to take notes while surfing the web.
- I’m answering email all day and don’t have time to work.
- I answer email during conference calls and in meetings.
- I have less and less time to plan, not to mention free time.
- I have less and less time to learn, not to mention creative time.
- I can never get to things quickly enough.
- I sit down at my computer and end up doing something different than I planned.
- I am eating lunch at my desk, mired in my virtual inbox.
- I make calls while driving, and even send the occasional text, even though I know I shouldn’t.
- Vacation? What’s that?
If you checked off three or more, you’ve got the disease. 8 or more, we need to rush you to an unplugged vacation. All of the above, you need a sabbatical!
But let’s look at what else you can do to give yourself some needed relief. Right now.
- First, don’t be ashamed of this disease. You’re not alone. One study puts the number of people reporting feeling burned out at their current job at 77%!
- Second, don’t let yourself become like the proverbial boiling frog. The reason I began this article with a list of overload symptoms is to help you become aware of the signs before, bit by bit, they gradually take over your life.
- Third, begin to address the symptoms. Try to take a view from the balcony and see what your personal modus operandi looks like from up there. Productive? Effective? A good use of your time? If you were advising someone else behaving as you do, what counsel would you offer?
There’s a cure.
And what better time than Independence Day (if you’re in the U.S.A. — otherwise, any day is a good day) to set yourself free?
Seriously, don’t just read this list and toss it aside for later. If you’re overloaded, later seldom comes. Right?
Commit to doing just one of the 11 strategies below in the coming week . Personally, I suggest beginning with #1; most of us fool ourselves on this one. I also really like #2; see if you can do that over the next week or so. And #4 is a really good project to put on your calendar this week for some date in the coming month, making a commitment to decluttering.
Or pick your favorite!Details
I’m a huge Seth Godin fan, always in awe of the plethora of wisdom he manages to pack into one pithy post. I save them up, building a collection I can draw upon for inspiration as life, personal and professional, pushes in.
Recently I looked back at What’s in the box? The point of the post is to make us question our quest for perfection and all the needless worrying we put into imagining everything that can possibly go wrong. Godin encourages us to worry less; just open the box and see what’s in it. Good to consider. Yet this presumes there’s a filled box to be opened.
When we’re in reactive or firefighter mode, we must open the box. The contents must be dealt with, generally with some urgency. So, definitely, perfectionism gets in the way. There’s simply no time for it! But, what about when we’re in proactive mode, building our own projects?
A Greater Challenge Than Opening the Box
Filling and delivering it! This means coming up with useful, delightful, meaningful content your recipient will consider a true gift. Once you’ve got a nicely filled box — a good gift — it’s time to deliver so the donor’s “feel good” can begin. Alas, this is where the concept of “done enough” vs. “overdone” can rear its ugly head.
Imagine This: You plan to send some cookies to your college sophomore. You make a batch of gorgeous macarons. Then you worry they’re too fancy. The next day, before putting them in a shipping box, you decide to add some chocolate chip since they’re ‘safe’. The next day you decide, as long as you’re bothering to ship these, you’ll add some brownies and oatmeal because then there’s some to share with roommates. The next day you realize it’s almost Valentine’s Day, so they’ll probably expect some heart-shaped sugar cookies. Now you’re getting into the “project-ness” of this endeavor, and decide you’ll make a few more kinds so it’ll be a really spectacular presentation! Great fun, yes… but, what has happened to the macarons by the end of the week?
The Old Stuff Gets Stale
While it’s true sometimes things are not ready for prime time, the reverse is also true.Details
You are if your modus operandi is fire fighter.
Because, let’s be real, you’re mostly putting out fires set by other people.
It may make you feel like a hero, but it’s not the best way to approach your job on a daily basis. Let me explain by asking you to answer these questions:
- Do you find yourself spending most of your time responding to other people’s crises?
- Is your day consumed with disruptive activities?
- Do you answer email all day long?
- Do you immediately respond to texts and voicemail?
- Are you constantly reacting, with little time left for acting?
If so, you (and most likely your co-workers too) are probably not doing the important preventive work that must be done so these urgent fires don’t break out.
Prevent vs. Fight
Anyone can fight a fire; “Only YOU can prevent [forest] fires.”
So, get out of the trees for a minute, take a perch at the top of a hill, and get a panoramic birds-eye view of your organization’s forest. Look for the places where danger lurks and fires might break out. For example (this is a non-exclusive list), it could be the way:Details
The single most important lesson I ever learned.
Begin with the why.
If you don’t, you’re likely to work very hard and not achieve much of value.
Because you didn’t begin your endeavor by asking yourself:
“What’s the value in this work upon which I’m about to embark?”
“Why am I doing this?”
This may be the most powerful strategy in your entire toolbox.
So simple. So basic. So fundamental.
Yet it’s a step we tend to overlook.
The often-overlooked steps.
Humans are funny creatures.
Monkey see, monkey do.
Monkey be told what to do, monkey do.
We’re driven instinctually, by biology, to survive.
Don’t eat the berries no one else is eating. We take what appears to be the safest course.
It generally works in the short term. There must be a reason.
Sometimes, however, there is no reason.
There’s just habit.
Or the reason isn’t a good one.
Answering the why question requires two elements: knowing what and who something is for. Let’s begin with the what.Details
If you’ve never read management and marketing guru Peter Drucker, you must. I fell in love with him early on in my nonprofit career, and still regularly draw upon his wisdom. It hasn’t aged; he was ahead of his time, and remains a worthy sage for ours.
Perhaps the most important thing I learned from Drucker was you must begin with the “why” question. What is your purpose?
“It is defined by the want the customer satisfies when she buys a product or service.”
You want to think about your purpose both broadly and narrowly. But not so broadly as to only be talking about your category. The fact you’re a human services agency, school, arts organization or environmental charity does not answer the question: “What would happen if you ceased to exist?”
Most founders do not wake up one day with the epiphany “I want to start a nonprofit.” They have more explicit goals related to solving specific problems. “I want to provide homeless people with access to showers.” “I want to offer equine therapy to kids with disabilities.” “I want to find a cure for this degenerative disease my kid has.” And so on.
If a customer has no soap to buy, they can’t get clean. If a homeless person has no shower or toilet available, they can’t get clean. Whether the business is for- or non-profit, the sought-after impact is cleanliness – and all the ways being clean makes people feel, think and behave. Goals that answer the “why” question are focused on impact. People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it.
Know your existential why — the meaningful impact you want to make — in order to build a plan to reach that goal.
A goal worth meeting is one other people share. Find out:Details
Have you been struggling with whether – and how – to incorporate generative artificial intelligence (AI; ChatGPT) into your work? Or perhaps you’ve been worrying your job will soon be obsolete?
You’re not alone.
Honestly, the whole AI thing scares the you-know-what out of me on most days. But, let’s consider the encouraging present rather than worry so much about the possibility of a bleak future (as in destruction of humanity?!).
You can’t control everything.
You can control some things. So, I thought I’d take a quick minute to send you some tips I’ve curated from others to help stimulate your thinking and planning for ways ChatGPT (Chat Generative Pre-trained Transformer) and other AI-driven chatbots have potential to free up your time and revolutionize how you communicate with donors.
You can ignore all of this if you choose. But, it won’t make it go away. Nor will it stop your peers from figuring out how to get a leg up through use of these new tools. Remember, at first some of us were slow to adopt use of computers, the internet and social media (who, me?).
So let’s lead from curiosity, not fear.
I begin withDetails
Do you write anymore?
I don’t mean do you type.
I’m talking about good old-fashioned handwriting.
You know, that very human practice most of the world seems to have abandoned post digital revolution?
It may seem practical and smart. After all, using a keyboard is definitely quicker.
But something critical gets lost in translation.
Not just to your audience, but to yourself.
Could keyboarding be causing you to disconnect? To lose your passion?
This is why writers including J.K. Rowling, Stephen King, Danielle Steele, John Updike and Joyce Carol Oates have rejected word processors and computers in favor of writing by hand. At least for their first drafts.
CAVEAT: Don’t fall into the trap of thinking these “handwriting people” are all just “old,” “old school,” or “stuck in their ways.” Rather, they intuitively discovered things about hand writing. All subsequently borne out by neuroscience. Once upon a time I intuited this as well. I couldn’t imagine giving up my yellow writing pad and pens of various colors. How would I think expressively if forced to type everything? Gradually, I was persuaded (shamed?) to jump on the bandwagon of modernity and efficiency. And, lo and behold, it was incredibly efficient. So fast! I got used to editing as I went along. Pretty soon I couldn’t envision ever going back. BUT…
But… after many years on the wrong track, I’m coming to understand the documented benefits of composing by hand.
Writing By Hand Offers Psychological Benefits
You can learn more about some of these benefits from specific studies here (improves memory and promotes deep encoding); here (bolsters learning), and here (advances idea generation), to name just a few.
Today I want to share six of these benefits I think you’ll find most relevant to your nonprofit work.Details
I confess I know virtually zip about artificial intelligence.
But I’ve been learning. Fast.
Because it’s hard these days to travel anywhere in the world, including the social benefit sector, without hearing enticing things about it.
- How it can do all sorts of things faster and better than humans.
- How it can create cost savings.
- How it enables greater personalization.
- How it leverages effective use of data for marketing and fundraising purposes.
- How it tracks engagement and predicts future behaviors.
- How it creates efficiencies for program purposes.
At first blush this sounds good. But… the devil is in the details, right?
Which is why people are equally thrilled or unnerved at the prospect.
I wondered if using it could create unintended consequences. New tools used as blunt instruments could cause unintentional harm. So, I thought I’d do a little research to know whether I should advise fundraisers to jump on the AI bandwagon.Details