For those who work in deadline driven environments, we are constantly trying to outpace our deadlines. There are so many factors that can impact our ability to complete high quality deliverables on time, within budget and meeting specific standards. Contrary to the Rolling Stones, time is not always on our side. So, what do we do when we don’t have the luxury of time?

 

 

  1. Phone a friend – is there an ally or resource who can support you in completing the work? Also, this person can help with final copy editing and preparation of materials.
  2. Checklist – have you prepared a list of all the items that you need to complete and whether you have access to the materials or need to gather them from other resources?
  3. Reuse and recycle – do you have materials that you can leverage from other documents that have been prepared? There is no need to reinvent the wheel if you have clean content.
  4. Version control – use a document sharing system to ensure you have access to the latest materials so there are no issues when completing the final version.

While this may not help you for this particular effort, make sure you include a reminder when planning for upcoming fiscal year activities. It may save you time in the future. Best of luck in trying to beat the clock!

My daughter loves wearing different costumes (and not just for Halloween). She loves pretending to be a doctor, firefighter, princess, fairy, butterfly and even a mommy. This is why I think adults like Halloween too – you can pretend to be something you’re not (at least for one day) and get away with it! It is fun to step outside of your own skin and live in a fantasy world. However, I think that this becomes problematic when we try to fantasize our professional world. What I mean is that nonprofit organizations can sometimes embellish the truth in order to garner favor (more shares on Twitter), additional funding or supporters of the organization. However, this can sometimes lead an organization down the wrong path. Your organization’s case statement (essentially, your statement of need and projected impact) should be routed in the truth. Why? Let’s outline some reasons.

  1. Needs are articulated. Have you determined why you need to seek funding for your organization/programs? Do you have dollars associated with these needs? Can you also clarify how you will measure the impact of funding against meeting these needs?
  2. Do not overpromise. A strong case statement will speak to your organization’s current capacity and capabilities, as well as providing information about future planning to show you are forward thinking in your strategic planning efforts. If you start to focus on too many high-level initiatives that are contingent on resources, funding, space, etc. these new initiatives may not happen and can fuel confusion about whether people can trust that you can meet expectations.
  3. Careful plan based on thorough assessment. Sometimes an organization’s needs are based on needs that have been articulated since inception. Has an updated needs assessment taken place and a fundraising and/or strategic plan been developed that coincides with this assessment?
  4. Outlines your capacity. There is a difference between your current state and future state. As described in #2, it is important to understand your limitations as an organization. Organizational capacity speaks to your ability to have strong internal controls, understanding your target audience and that you have programs that meet the needs of your constituency.
  5. Integrity matters. Most importantly, being true to your organization’s capacity shows that you are honest and forthright. This way, being boastful about your current strengths is more significant than embellishing the truth.

Have you updated your case statement recently (or at least your boilerplate grants and communications language)? Does this speak to your truth and where you are as an organization currently? Remember that Halloween lasts only one day each year – you have to be honest to yourselves, your constituents and funders all 365 days. Honesty and a firm understanding of your organization’s capacity are important qualities!

 

I don’t like being scared, period. I can’t stand horror movies or thrillers. While I can avoid entertainment, I can’t avoid things that scare me in life. There are many unknowns and while we try to be prepared, we can’t always prepare for every scenario. How do we overcome our fears and become better equipped for success?  

  1. Acknowledge that you have fears. Why hide from the things that scare you? Is it death, sickness, job loss? Become aware that the fear exists and give it a name.
  2. Learn how to calm yourself down. How do you try to relax? Is it yoga, music, playing with your dogs and/or kids? What will help put you in a better headspace?
  3. Don’t think too much. I find that when I obsess about an issue/topic, I actually end up making it worse. Meditation is great to overcoming these obsessive thoughts and there are so many free apps that you can find one to help you meditate for even just five minutes.
  4. Find a coping mechanism. What happens if your fear is realized? Are you ready to face it? It helps to find a healthy way to address this so it doesn’t overtake your personal and/or professional life. What are some healthy habits that you can adopt?
  5. Move on. Hopefully, once you cross that bridge you can keep moving forward and not obsess about the next fear.

What are your greatest fears and how can you try to ensure you are mentally and emotionally strong enough to combat them?

On a regular basis, a grant writer is often asked, “What is your success rate?” I realize that from an outsider’s perspective, the success rate can appear to be a measurement of the grant writer’s aptitude and provide a tool to determine return on investment or job performance.  However, I find this question misleading, and here’s why:

  1. Success rate does not provide any understanding of what the funder was thinking. Why was a decision made? Was it the quality of the proposal or something completely outside of the grantee’s control? Was a grantee already designated even before the proposal was received?
  2. Success rate does not indicate the quality of the work. A well written proposal can stand on its own merit, even if it was not funded.
  3. Success rate does not incorporate the work that went into the proposal. A grant writer can spend 1-3 months on a large proposal, which helps enhance the capacity of the organization. If the organization can recommend the grant writer, even without a win, this is a testament to the success of the grant writer.
  4. Success rate does not factor in cultivation. Did the organization actively cultivate this funder? Could that have made a decision in whether or not this proposal was awarded?

This is why I caution anyone to think about viewing success rate as the be all, end all of a grant writer’s capabilities. Other indicators such as writing samples, recommendations, project plans and other tools are integral components in a grant writer’s portfolio. They have equal (if not more weight) than limiting a grant writer to the success rate alone.

When we’re younger, we look up to our parents, teachers and older siblings as they always appear to be in charge. To us they might even seem unstoppable. As we get older we realize that we are infallible and that as adults we try to make the best decisions with what information we have available. What about those who transcend the average adult and become fearless leaders? We know them and they come from all walks of life – CEOs, elected officials, political activists, religious figures and many other superheroes living in our midst. However, what makes them stand out and what is it that we crave from them to help fulfill our lives and make us want to follow their lead?

  1. Integrity: Good leaders say what they mean and mean what they say. They don’t crack under pressure and there is clarity with the message being conveyed. People follow those who they can trust.
  2. Perspective: People’s views change when they overcome adversity and their existing viewpoints are challenged. These insights build character, sensitivity and understanding, which allows you to feel like your own viewpoints are understood.
  3. Courage: Think about Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mahatma Ghandi. They were incredibly courageous just by staying true to their convictions no matter the outcome (including jail and potential violence). While most good leaders may not face these obstacles, they do need to stay true to their convictions despite competing interests, naysayers and other challenges.
  4. Big Picture: Start with the end goal in mind. Good leaders have vision and can articulate this vision so others see it as well.
  5. Listening: Many people think good leaders are known for being wonderful orators and have great power through their strength and command. However, I think strong leadership requires humility and listening when others do not agree with that point of view. This helps build the following and engaging others whose viewpoints are starkly different from your own.

Who are the leaders in your life and what can you learn from them?

Last month I turned 40 – a milestone birthday by most standards. People’s reactions were generally encouraging and positive, but some thought I may end up having a nervous breakdown or midlife crisis. This made me think more about our society and why we put so much pressure on ourselves to stay young. We have face creams, promote plastic surgery and have fashion options tend to skew towards those 35 and younger. Any recruiter will also tell you that older applicants have a more difficult road to finding a new job. I feel strongly that it is important for us to embrace people of all ages and I caution that diminishing the value of those who are older does not serve us very well. Why does age matter?

Here’s my list of top benefits to growing older:

  1. Your life experiences hone your intuition, perspective and ability to think clearly
  2. You know a lot more people than you did when you were 18, or even 25.
  3. You tend to take things less personally and focus more on your needs.
  4. You have a better sense of who you are and what makes you happy.
  5. You are probably less addicted to technology and able to separate from gadgets.
  6. You probably earn more money than you did when you were younger, and thus might have more ability to do things in your leisure time.
  7. You are aware of what you’re good at and also your weaknesses.
  8. You have wisdom that standardized tests can’t capture.

Think about these things the next time you talk to someone older than you (perhaps a different age demographic). You are probably more similar than you think, and you may actually learn a thing or two.

Ever since I was a young child I have always tried to avoid conflicts. I don’t like to argue or hear people argue, period. However, as we get older, this isn’t always possible. We have to confront people with differing opinions and different ways of handling an issue that is contentious. How do we move past this and find some common ground? This is especially true living in the Washington, DC Metro area and hearing lots of partisan arguments and viewpoints and opinions on varying issues.

Well, I say, let’s try to embrace some conflict as I think it helps us grow personally and professionally. Here’s why….

  1. Everyone has an opinion – Is this based on fact, past experience or personal belief? Opinions based on fact or past experience might help provide some insights that you don’t have.
  2. Gain some perspective – We all get entrenched in our own ideas so if we only work with those with whom we agree, we really aren’t going to change our points of view. This becomes tunnel vision and fuels the partisan rancor that impacts decision making on important policies and topics.
  3. Active listening – We like to talk, but are we really listening? Maybe if we stop and hear what someone else is saying before responding, we could actually have a healthy debate about a substantive issue.
  4. We need to grow – I know for myself that I have learned more from failure and negative situations than I have from triumphs. If we look at conflict as the fuel for change, this will help us become more thoughtful leaders and professionals.

While I don’t suggest you start a conflict with someone, I am recommending that opening the door to disagreements can lead to more fruitful outcomes.

Happy New Year! The start of a new year always brings a desire to change, reinvent or redo things in our life that hold us back. However, in most instances, we fall short of these expectations. This is why I am choosing not to have any resolutions this year. Some food for thought….

  1. We feel worse if we don’t achieve our resolutions.
  2. Why does it have to coincide with the new year? Can’t we make resolutions when there is a need to do so? Change is an evolving process.
  3. Let’s put a positive spin on resolutions and focus on the things that our life that are working or make us successful, versus things we want to change.
  4. Are these resolutions leading to substantive changes or enhanced quality of life?
  5. Unless your resolution comes with an action plan, they are likely more aspirational in nature.

Maybe you are the kind of person that does like to make resolutions. I would also think about being grateful and focusing on the positive – perhaps create a list of thanks instead. Do you plan on making any resolutions this year?

I am grateful for the fact that my children are able to express themselves (and all of their emotions). Their articulation of their challenges, triumphs, and annoyances offers me a glimpse into how they view the world around them. I realize that we spend a lot of time talking and sharing our opinions and information, and what I feel is lost is the art of listening. Are we really trying to absorb what is around us or are our senses too overwhelmed? Especially as we move towards a new calendar year and deal with end of year giving, annual appeal letters and the like, we are constantly pushing out information. Why is listening really that important?

  1. We learn new things: If you actually take the time to listen (both actively in-person or via phone or by reading) we might learn some interesting tidbits that provide insights into others’ perspectives, priorities or values. This is helpful in pursuing partnerships.
  2. Build connections: Instead of always pushing information about ourselves and organizations we represent onto other people, perhaps we can see this as an opportunity to connect. Let’s deepen the bonds that connect us.
  3. Focuses our energy: Listening is a skill and requires our attention and engagement. If we actually stop and absorb, this helps us remove the excess noise and become active participants in the world around us.
  4. The ties that bind: In addition to building connections, we also are able to find commonalities and shared values. Perhaps there is someone whose voice did not seem relevant or interesting at first glance, and now by listening you learned something new. Maybe this can help open your mind and perspective as well.

What will you do today to start listening to others?

While this time of year is always fraught with multiple deadlines, activities, holiday gatherings and efforts to complete work before 2017 has ended, I am going to think about this year differently. Have you thanked some of the unsung heroes that help ensure our safety? What about donors and funders who don’t provide huge gifts, but give annually? What about all of those people within the organization that are responsible for critical functions, but are not recognized for their service? While it is easy to thank major donors and funders, we should also think about those whose efforts indirectly (or sometimes directly) help us achieve our goals.

I urge you to write a letter (maybe even enclose a photo), make a phone call, make a donation or do some work pro bono. While we put our efforts towards funding retention and fund seeking, we should also be aware of the lessons we can learn from others.

Who will you thank today?