28 March 2010

Reaction: "enough"

(Note: if you haven't already read Godin's post I'm referring to, make sure you do so first)

Godin nailed it on the head - many of the people I have dealt with in fundraising have this exact fear.  They're afraid that there won't be a definable limit.  After all, what is enough?  How do you define it?

The simplest reaction to this "enough" ambiguity, especially in the realm of societal need, is to avert your eyes.  It's totally human, after all.

It's a fluffy example, but if you've ridden on Southwest Airlines you know it's true.  You've either been the averter or averted.  You know there's a need for seats; it's impossible to ignore.  It's just so...comfortable to wait on someone else to take that first step.  To make the ask.

As a fundraiser, the biggest challenge in my job is reaching the mid-level givers.  I know there's an intimidation factor that accompanies the "fundraiser" label; that's why people don't want to meet with them.  That's why they might hang up when asked for a donation.  It's another one of those people.

I've been wrestling with the best way to address this for the last two years, and while I have a few good principles I've used, I don't know that I've come up with a perfect solution yet.  More on that in a later post.

More broadly, the question of what's "enough" is going to be one universities and non-profits are going to have to help donors address soon.  But more than that, nonprofits are going to have to figure out themselves what enough is (and answer questions such as, "how much do we really need?").

There are now more than 1.2 million charities and foundations.  That means a growing number of nonprofits will be asking for help achieving their goals and addressing societal needs - and I wonder if donors will tire of it quickly.  According to George Rubanenko of Blackbaud, “After six solicitations a year, the likelihood for long-term loyalty diminishes significantly.”  

With more and more charities and foundations asking the same pool of people, how will donors react to six solicitations from different nonprofits?

Yes, "enough" is a tough thing to define, but nonprofits need to be asking themselves the same questions their prospects are wondering.

26 March 2010


Seth Godin really nailed it on the head today with his post on philanthropy and "the ceiling" (how much is enough?).  Before I react, I'm going to stew on it for bit but will be sure to comment later today.

In the meantime, read his post:

22 March 2010

Working for...

Heard Loverboy's "Working for the Weekend" song this weekend, and it made me think: what if everybody was working for the week?

What would it look like if you were so excited and passionate about your work that you looked forward to the week instead of dreading it?

16 March 2010

Running and Life Lessons: Part One

I follow a few RSS feeds, one of which happens to be the Runner's World daily feed.  Every once in a while a gem pops up - and yesterday was one of those days.

Mark Remy was writing about a casual run he had the other day - you know, the "everyday" 20-mile kind - that was incredibly difficult to get into.  I'll let Remy describe:
The run itself didn’t start very auspiciously, either. In short, I felt horrible. Whatever the opposite of warmed-up is, that’s how I felt. For those first few miles with the dog, I struggled. And labored. And doubted myself. Maybe I was sick? Not fully recovered from last weekend’s 20? Wait… was I dying? I had just felt a twinge in my brain. Most likely a tumor. That’s all I need. (Meantime, the dog looked great. )
But I wasn’t dying. I was just working out the kinks. 
Warren calls this run, the Long Hill Loop, his “punch-through run.” And now I know why. You just have to keep going. And punch through it. All those long, soul-sucking climbs? Punch through ‘em. Those lonely, rural miles past sleeping households and barren fields? Punch through ‘em. That final, long slog up the mile-long switchbacks on Second Street, then the twisting, mile-long descent down the other side? Punch through. Do what you’ve gotta do. 
And we did. Do what we had to do, that is. It’s amazing — after doing this for so many years, over so many miles — how easy it is to forget that one, vital truism: Things might be uncomfortable for a while. That’s OK. Punch through it. Move forward.
That line - punch through - really resonated with me.  How many times in life do things start out painfully, slowly even, only to work out in the end?

Maybe it's just because I've started to run more regularly or my tolerance has built up (thus, my endorphins take longer to kick in), but I've been having a lot of those runs lately.  They start out great, after a quarter mile they suck, and then three miles in I'm feeling good.  It's weird, I know.  But it's a regular reminder that in life, sometimes we just have to punch through.

13 March 2010

Godin's Linchpin

Linchpin: Are You Indispensable?
Just finished reading Seth Godin's Linchpin: Are You Indispensable?.  Quick read, some great points, and it got me thinking more intentionally about how I approach my professional life.

Seth's main point is every action needs to center around how you can become indispensable.  The linchpin, if you will.  A seemingly small piece that is critical to the daily operation of the greater machine.

Here are my key takeaways:
  1. Shoot for 5 minutes of brilliance.  

    No one is brilliant every moment of the day.  It's impossible, yet we all strive to do so.  We as humans need to focus on our 5 minutes of brilliance each day that justifies our existence on this planet.

    I tend to be a bit of a perfectionist, so I get down on myself when I don't live up to my own absurdly high expectations.  The goal here is not to settle on a lesser goal, but have more realistic expectations on how quickly you can achieve it and in what segments.  As mom always used to say, "Peel one potato at a time."

  2. The lizard brain.

    This is the term Seth coined for the portion of our brains that controls our survival instincts.  It's the same 'brain' we share with lizards, and he argues that its existence in everyday life inhibits our ability to succeed.  It's the voice you hear in the back of your head that says things like "you can't do this" or "you're not smart enough."  It's the part of you that desires to stay comfortable, to stick with what you know, to survive.

    I realized I am extremely guilty of listening to the lizard brain too many times in my life.  I hear it when I run.  I hear it when I work.  I hear it in social settings with people I don't know.

  3. Successful businesses are composed of linchpins.
    Organizations that consistently hire complacency kill any momentum they might have been gaining.  While it might be 'safe' to hire just another cog (he compares the modern-day workplace to an extension of the early assembly line - easily replaceable workers doing a single specialized task), ultimately you're going to slowly kill your company.  We need new thinkers, innovators, risk takers.

    I've been doing better in this area, but I need to focus my efforts further and define a niche area.  In tough times, good businesses hang on to the linchpins because they're critical to success.  Linchpins think with a forward perspective, and are prepared for and excited by the unknown.
I'd definitely pick up the book if you're looking for something to read.  Godin could have done a slightly better job with the length (some parts were pretty repetitive), but I understand his rationale (what's the key to learning? repetition, repetition, repetition).

Are you a linchpin?  Do you listen to your lizard brain too much?  

01 March 2010

Avoiding the B word

I realized earlier this year I was using a four-letter word a bit too frequently: busy.
(gags)  Even writing it makes me cringe.

Also equally as disgusting:
  • It's been crazy...
  • I haven't had enough time...
  • I'll get to it tomorrow...
The B-word, as I'll call it, is an excuse.  An excuse I've used too many times to allow myself to fail.  To fail at meeting the expectations of myself, my loved ones, friends and coworkers.

It's easy to say, "I'm sorry I forgot; I've been so b&%#."

It's much harder to say, "I've overloaded myself and your priority/task/request was a lot lower on my list than it was on yours, even if I said I'd take care of it."

I'm sick of using it, and I refuse to do so anymore.

If you hear it, or any variation of that four-letter word, slip out of my mouth you have my permission to call me out.

For Lent this year, I'm giving up the B-word.