10 Strategies to Beat the Monday Blues

Posted by on Feb 13, 2012 | 0 comments

I’ve got ’em, do you?

Leave it to a child to remind us that attitude is a choice.

But seriously, how do we pull ourselves out of the Monday blues and end the day with a sense of accomplishment?  As the sign says, “Paint yourself a different color.”

To do this, you need to clear the canvas. Review your thoughts, examine them carefully and identify the negative influences. Remove or change the negative thoughts. Instead of thinking, “I hate waiting in this line, the guy in front of me is so slow,” change your thought to “At least I’m ahead of the 5 people behind me.” Instead of looking at the pile on your desk and thinking, “I will never get this done,” change your thought to “I can break this into specific topics and tackle them one at a time. I can do this!”

Be more confident in yourself. Be brighter, happier, more positive. Think of the glass half full, instead of half empty.

I know it sounds like a cliche, and of course, it is a cliche, but it works. Your mind controls how you feel. If you’re feeling blue, it’s because YOU chose to feel that way. You chose blue.

In our interactions with colleagues, donors, family, friends and the public, it’s imperative that our attitude is painted positive. Your attitude can directly affect their attitude. It’s a domino effect that should not be underestimated.

“One of the most important steps you can take toward achieving your greatest potential in life is to learn to monitor your attitude and its impact on your work performance, relationships and everyone around you.” This quote, from the  2009 Success magazine article by Kieth Harrell Why Your Attitude Is Everythingsums it up perfectly and the article’s 10 strategies to improving your attitude are great examples of how we can CHOOSE our attitude.

As I said in a recent blog post, choice is everything. But as we’ve been reminded today, so is attitude.

I know it’s late on a Monday, but it’s never too late to improve your attitude. So grab a paint brush, turn that frown upside down, and make it a good day. It’s really up to you.

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Overthinking Can Be Dangerous

Posted by on Feb 2, 2012 | 0 comments

Today has been a flurry of non-activity.

Well, not at my desk, at least not today…but have you ever looked at the clock and realized that you had accomplished nothing but had spent hours mulling things over? I imagine we can all remember a day (or a month) when we managed to while away our productive time being unproductive.

Mulling is good in moderation. Overthinking is dangerous, at any level.

What about…

  • the nonprofit organization that feels disconnected from their donors and wants to reach out, but spends a year putting together a plan before sending even one email?
  • the well-meaning development officer who wants the thank you note to be perfect, but in the creation of this perfection allows weeks and months to go by before a simple thank you is sent to the donor?
  • the fundraising department that can’t reach consensus on a new database and stops updating donor information on the old database until a decision is made?
  • the weekly column that’s due on Friday, but on Wednesday still isn’t drafted?

How can these overthinking efforts be corrected?

Fundraising is an “in the moment” industry. Yes, it’s also a long term effort. Yes, we are working on sustainable, long-term relationships. But the reality is, if you miss the moment, it’s gone. Another moment may provide the opportunity for another timely ask or a personal thank you, but the initial opportunity is still lost. You missed it.

So, let’s work on planning, but not overthinking our efforts. How can we do avoid analysis paralysis (a favorite term of a former boss)? Here are a few tips to get you thinking (not too much) about how to rethink (not too much) your thinking processes:

  1. Track your thoughts – use a ledger and keep track of the time you spend contemplating or reworking or rewriting a project. Take a real look at the time spent preparing and add a value to it (X hours x hourly rate). Does this pencil out, is the value of time to project realistic?
  2. Analyze your purpose – stop for a minute, change your focus and try to determine why you are giving something so much thought. Is it because of self-doubt, a colleague’s criticism, a former negative reaction, a hoped for promotion? Discern your own motivation and critique it’s merit.
  3. Take a break – sometimes we overthink because we’re unable to begin doing. Take a break and you should return refreshed and ready to begin working, rather than thinking.
  4. Redirect – change your focus. Think about something else. Force your mind to stop thinking about one issue and ponder something else (but don’t overthink it!).
  5. Set parameters – for instance, set a time limit on your “thinking/planning” process. Once the time is up, go to work on the project. If it’s doesn’t come together after a predetermined amount of time and effort, do a second “thinking/planning” session, followed by a work session, and repeat. Until you are successful.
  6. Give yourself some slack – you are not perfect. Ask a colleague for their input, recognize that first drafts are exactly what they appear to be – first drafts. Overthinking your first effort reduces the time you will have to edit and rewrite on a second go-through.
  7. Envision the bigger picture – be realistic about the import of this project. Don’t give it more attention, thought, time or effort than it should receive. Balance your time carefully to best manage everything and reduce overthinking to a minimum.

Don’t give this blog post too much thought. Just read it, embrace it, and run with it: send out that thank you note today, work from a simple spreadsheet today, outline the content for your weekly column today, call a donor today….

Make tomorrow a flurry of activity! Don’t overthink, just think and do!

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The Role of A Fundraising Consultant

Posted by on Jan 31, 2012 | 0 comments

Today’s post is from a friend and colleague in the nonprofit fundraising world, Ann Fitzpatrick of A.C. Fitzpatrick and Associates.  A fellow fundraising consultant, Ann is a mentor for many who are fighting for freedom around the world; her candid and knowledgable approach to successful fundraising never fails to impress and inspire.

The following  entry entitled “What Should We Expect of A Consultant?” is part of Ann’s regular outreach to her subscribers:

“When faced with difficulties in raising money, some nonprofit executives fall into the trap of thinking: ‘Once we hire a consultant, our funding problems will be solved.’

The truth is that while consultants can be key partners for nonprofits that are ready to tackle problems such as murky vision, a lackluster board, poor management or weak fundraising skills, they are not a fix-all remedy.

When is it the right time to hire a consultant? And what should we expect of a consultant? Follow these guidelines for creating a successful consultant relationship:

Evaluate your needs and budget. Consultants provide varying services based on their expertise. Do you need a strategic plan? A fundraising audit? An additional pair of hands in the fundraising office? Assistance with a capital campaign? Staff training? Or board development?

Find the right match. Not all consultants do the same work. Be sure to check references to ensure the consultant has the skills you require, as well as accomplishments to back them up.

Put deliverables in writing. Many consultant relationships are soured when the consultant fails to live up to expectations. But sometimes that’s the fault of the nonprofit, which fails to make its expectations clear. Discuss your requirements with the consultant and what you want out of the relationship. Review these expectations every few months to ensure both you and the consultant are on the same page.

Be realistic. Consultants rarely have philanthropists in their back pockets that they can direct to fund your nonprofit’s programs. However, an experienced consultant team can offer other valuable services. For instance, they might: provide focus for your fundraising activities, guide your organization around potential pitfalls, deliver honest messages to management, and build the strength of your fundraising team.

Remain fully engaged. Yes, consultants can reduce some of the burdens of fundraising, but they cannot work alone. The most successful relationships are ones in which the leadership remains engaged and available for conference calls and meetings.

When in doubt, consider the 4 c’s. Look for consultants who are compatible, competent, confidential and who share a belief in your cause.

Finally, remember that the consultant works for you. This may sound obvious, but a good consultant—like any other team member—will benefit from your honest assessment and regular feedback on what is helpful and what is not.”

Thank you Ann, once again you’re right on target!
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Conquering Your Speaking Fears

Posted by on Jan 28, 2012 | 0 comments

It was bound to happen.

You’ve been invited to speak to a group of peers. Congratulations!

Wait, what’s that? You’re NOT excited? You don’t want to take the assignment? You HATE to speak in front of people? Oh my. Hmmm. Well, we better get to work!

A lot of very successful people have made it “to the top” without ever gripping a podium or looking out over a vast audience. How this happens is a topic for another blog post, but for today we’ll just state it as a  fact: great leaders are not always great speakers.

Having made this observation, we should also add that great speakers are not always great leaders. However, when the two are one – great speaker, great leader – there is a powerful energy for motivation and inspiration that cannot be denied.

So, what makes a great speaker? Let me break it down to two factors: Knowledge and Presentation. These are the two most critical elements of a presentation of any kind, whether speaking to a small group of attentive colleagues or an auditorium filled with sleep-deprived conference attendees.

Knowledge. It is imperative that a speaker know his stuff. Experience, training, and education on the topic you are presenting not only gives you a foundation to speak from, but gives you a degree of credibility before you ever open your mouth. This isn’t something you should cram for. Certainly there are instances where we’ve been given a task to teach that we aren’t 100% skilled in, so cramming is probably a good idea on occasion. But when speaking to an audience, either as a panelist, a keynote, or a session presenter, it’s important that you have a foundation of experience and knowledge to establish yourself as an “expert” of sorts. There are a lot of people with knowledge, but without the ability to present the information in a captivating, organized, motivating way…who cares? And that brings us to….

Presentation. It really doesn’t matter how many degrees you have or what your life’s experiences are, if you don’t have the know-how or ability or desire to share information in a creative, attention-holding manner, you shouldn’t be speaking at all.

  • Posture – how you stand at the podium (or sit at the panelist’s table) tells your audience a lot about you. Stand straight, sit straight. Lean forward. Rest your elbows on the table or place your hands on the podium when you’re not using them for communication. Assume a position of comfortable, assured presence.  Your posture and presence should tell a story about you: you know why you’re there, you know your audience, and you’re prepared.
  • Speech – your voice is a tool. Keeping your voice in mid-range when speaking allows you to lower it or raise it for emphasis. You can incite excitement in your audience, or make them go wide-eyed, simply by using different voice inflections as you deliver a well-prepared speech. Practice, practice, practice – before the event. Use a mirror, a tape recorder. Listen to yourself. Notice your pauses, when your voice cracks. Check your breathing, slow down, take breaths. Stop saying “Um” or “Uh”.
  • Preparation – there is a lot of necessary preparation before a successful presentation. First and foremost, know your audience. Find out who they are, why they will be in attendance, and what they need to know. And second, draft your presentation to that audience, remember who you will be speaking to and speak to them as you draft your speech. Start with a topic, draft an outline, fill in the blanks, rewrite and then rewrite again. Ask for a second pair of eyes to read through it. Maybe a third pair of eyes too. Include facts. Include personal stories. Make it something your audience can identify with. Use humor, even if your (or especially if your) subject is somewhat dry. Humor and lighthearted quips give the audience an opportunity to connect with you on a more personal level.
  • Confidence – granted, confidence comes with experience, but as you prepare for a presentation, remember that you are bringing to the table YOUR knowledge on this topic, and you’ve been asked to speak precisely because of YOUR knowledge. Share your strengths and weaknesses, successes and failures. Have the confidence to be real, to know that you are the person that should be speaking to that audience on that day on that topic. You can do this!

It was Ann Landers who said, “The trouble with talking too fast is you may say something you haven’t thought of yet.”  So, take a deep breath, be prepared, stand tall, feel confident, speak clearly, stay on topic, use humor, and enjoy this assignment.

You may already be a great leader, but now it’s time for you to be a great speaker too.

Yes, it was bound to happen, but you’ve got this one. I know it.


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8 Lessons Shared (to Our Benefit)

Posted by on Jan 12, 2012 | 0 comments

Brent Beshore, the CEO of AdVentures, created his company in 2007 ( now ranked #28 on the 2011 Inc. 500 list of fastest growing companies in the U.S.)  “to create, enable, or acquire companies that offer transformative communications solutions.”

In this blog post, Beshore recounts 8 lessons learned over the past 6 years.

My take-away? The backbones of start-up success: simplicity, planning, humility, courtesy, focus, perseverance, and profit.

We can learn from his experience.

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