2010 Wrap Up

Plateful of Christmas Cookies

Image via Wikipedia

As the year winds to a close, I’ll be spending most of my time focused on three things:

  1. Helping two nonprofits with which I work (Pandora Theatre and Mach 30) make the most of their year-end fundraising.  (Here’s why you should focus on December fundraising too)
  2. Baking Cookies
  3. Developing plans to help nonprofit leaders reach more people through social media in 2011.  If you’d like to be one of those leaders,  click the links below before you go bake your own cookies:
    1. Sign up for the newsletter to get all the free resources from the blog delivered to your inbox–along with discounts on paid resources.
    2. Jump-start your fundraising with the ideas in this free guide– so you’ll have the funds you need to take advantage of premium content.

See you next year!!

While I was out

I'm on a boat!

I went on vacation last week with my family–so it’s been a little quiet around here.  Now I’m back and getting  into the swing of things. I’m working on the next  Adventures in Fundraising update (hint, it’s all about the 1023)–but meantime, I want to make sure you don’t miss out on two cool things that happened while I was away.

  1. Pamela Grow invited me to write a guest post on how autoresponders can help nonprofits turn prospects into donors–you can read it here.
  2. Remember the tool Susan Johnstone created to help us out-smart resistance?  She’s expanded her offerings.  If you’ve noticed that you can’t seem to force yourself to do the stuff you know you need to do–Susan can help you learn how to stop fighting your resistance and start using it.   Check out the free teleclass and other great offerings here.  If you are ready to jump into the full 5 week class, click here to sign up.

Your turn

What have you been up to?  Post links to your latest posts, info about upcoming events or just general plugs for your awesome organizations and/or projects in the comments section.

See you next week!

12 Essential Life Lessons I Learned from my Mom

  • Be yourself.
  • It’s good to be smart.
  • It’s not good to use your intelligence to make others feel small.
  • Creativity is a natural part of life.
  • No one can make you happy–you have to do that for yourself.
  • You owe it to the world to be the best you can be.
  • The words “independent” and “woman” go together quite nicely.
  • Artists draw what they see, not what everyone else sees.
  • Picking up rotten fruit won’t kill you.
  • Children deserve to be listened to.
  • Children do not deserve to always get their way.
  • You are never to old to learn new things.

I love you Mom.

Feel free to share your Mom’s wisdom in the comments!

Facebook Changes It Up (again)

In their constant search for perfection–or just total inability to leave well enough alone, Facebook has re-envisioned formerly-known-as fan-pages. From my article about the changes on Handshake 2.0.

If you’ve logged onto Facebook since April 21, 2010, you’ve likely noticed Facebook fans are a thing of the past.  Now, instead of becoming a fan, page visitors click the thumbs-up button to “like” a page.  The good news is this lighter-weight action could mean more connections for businesses – after all, it’s easier to “like” something than to “love” it.  That having been said, some adjustments may be necessary for businesses to make the most of this change.

Come on over to read the whole thing and join the discussion.  Hope to see you there!

Spring Clean your Schedule

i-has-a-systemAre you busy all the time?  Rushing from one task to the next with no time to breathe?  Despite all that activity, do you feel as behind at the end of the day as you did when you woke up?  It may seem you just need to work harder, become more efficient, or work longer days.

I suggest an alternate path:  Do less.

Spend less time perfecting the meeting minutes.  Forget the $1500 grant with a 14 page application.  Skip your blog post on the weeks you have nothing to say.  Take a walk after lunch.

I’m not suggesting you clear your schedule completely and sit in your office waiting for inspiration to strike, but there is only so much of you to go around.  When your day is filled with  minutia and busywork, there is no space left to think about what’s next.

What can you stop doing?

Use your mission as a guide here.  It is why your nonprofit exists. Without it, the rest of your work, no matter how well executed, is pointless. I’m not saying you should fire the development director (please, don’t fire the development director), but when the marketing, development and administrative work takes over the life of your organization,  you are no longer doing what you set out to do.

So how do you decide what should stay and what should go?  The key is to connect each piece of work back to your mission.  Think of it like stepping stones.  For example:

The mission of Low Hanging Fruit is to help nonprofits be heard.  The work of writing this blog post breaks down like this:

  1. I’m writing a blog post about prioritization so
  2. the nonprofit leaders who read it will spend their best time on the core of their work so
  3. what they do will have a greater impact.
  4. That impact will strengthen their voice in the community. (i.e. help them be heard).

Since writing new content is close to the core of my purpose, (only working directly with organizations is closer), there are just a few steps between my work and my mission.  For administrative tasks, the link will take longer.  For example, one night last month, I developed a time-tracking system.  The breakdown of that work looks like this:

  1. I’m creating a spreadsheet to track my hours so
  2. I can evaluate how I divide my time between working with clients, writing good content, finding my right people, and growing my experience so
  3. I can ensure I’ve got the right mix of activities to grow my business so
  4. more of the right people visit my website at the right time and find what they need so
  5. when they need help they will contact me to work directly with their organization to
  6. help them be heard.

Both activities can legitimately be tied back to my goal.  Some of your current work will not tie back–or if it does, it’s only because you are very creative.  If you have to work especially hard on this exercise, or the linkage takes more than 10 steps, consider dropping that activity from your work–even just for a little while, and see what happens.

Prioritizing what remains

Even after removing activities not directly related to your mission, your schedule will likely be full.  The next step is to prioritize the rest.  This is usually where you’d see advice like “start with what’s most important” or “what is most unpleasant”, or even, “the easiest thing”.

The problem with this advice is it has nothing to do with what will work for you.  Try this instead:  sync your work with the natural ebb and flow of your productivity by doing the work most closely tied to your mission during your most fruitful hours.  If you like to work from a schedule, spend time at the beginning of each day, or each week, sketching out a plan to budget minutes for each activity.  Schedule the “mission critical” work for the times when you are fresh and unlikely to be interrupted and the less critical work during the times that remain.

If you know a weekly plan just isn’t going to happen for you, set a timer to chime (way better than buzz — but do what you have to do) every fifty minutes during your most productive hours. When you hear the sound, evaluate the work you are doing in the moment–is it the most mission centered thing on your plate right now? If not, switch to work closer to the center.

What’s the point?

Now that you have an extra hour or two in your schedule each day, enjoy it!  Rather than tick off the next thing on your list, take time to dream about what’s possible, learn about something new, connect with people who see the world differently.  By taking your nose off the grindstone, you have time to look up and see what is around you– it’s this time to look “outward” that will give you the experience and perspective you need to serve your community in whole new ways.  (Plus you are less likely to burn out, but that’s another post. . . .)

Your Turn

What are you ready to stop doing?

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Impact & Capacity, Revisited
What’s so great about mission?

Your mission is why your nonprofit exists.  Without it, the rest of your work, no matter how well executed is completely pointless.  I’m not saying you should fire the development director (please, don’t fire the development director)  but when the marketing, development and administration work you do gets in the way of what you were organized to do, there is a problem.The concept is very obvious in theory, but it does get a bit tricky in real life–especially for people with administrative or leadership responsibilities.  When your day involves balancing the budget, approving the marketing plan and wondering where you will get the money to do what needs doing, it’s very easy to start giving those activities all of your focus.  When that happens, it’s easy to become an organization that is about raising money, or about perpetuating itself–not about making the world better.I am in no way suggesting that the leadership and management of nonprofits is unimportant–quite the opposite.  Without the right people in these roles, it is impossible for  those closer to the mission to do their work.  Without nonprofit leaders and administrators, growth and in some cases achieving the mission at all is impossible.  What I am suggesting is that everyone connected with your organization, from board members to the custodial staff should know in their bones why you do what you do and focus their efforts on doing their work in a way that best supports that mission.

How do I do that?
The best way to stay linked to your mission is to make sure the work most important to your mission is done at your most productive time of day.

For example.  The mission of Low Hanging Fruit is to help nonprofits be heard.  Right now I’m writing a blog post so my linkage looks like this:

1) I’m writing a blog post about the value of mission so
2) the nonprofit leaders who read it will spend their best time on the core of their work so
3) what they do will be more powerful–making it easier for them to be heard.

One night last week I decided I wanted to know how I was spending my time.  The breakdown of that work looks like this:

1)I’m creating a spreadsheet to track my hours so
2)I’ll know how I spend my time so
3) I can evaluate how I divide my time between writing good content, finding my right people, and growing my experience so
4) more of the right people  visit my website at the right time and find what they need so
5) when they have a communications problem they will think of me as someone who can help them be heard.

So, for my work, writing content is much more important to my mission than tracking my time

What this doesn’t  mean
Spreadsheets and time tracking is totally pointless.

What it does mean
My most productive and creative hours should be spent writing.  The less productive parts of my day should be spent on the spreadsheets.

If planning your day makes you happy
Prioritize your daily tasks and schedule each one in order of how closely aligned with your mission it is.  Put the most mission diriven parts at your most productive time of day

If planning your day is never going to happen
Set a timer to chime (way better than buzz, but do what you have to do) every 50 minutes during your most productive hours.  When you hear the sound evaluate the work you are doing in the moment–is it the most mission centered thing on your plate right now?  If not, switch to something that is.