Building Stronger Nonprofits
What does 2019 hold for your organization?
Are you feeling optimistic or pessimistic about the year ahead? If one can gauge our financial success by watching the stock market’s wild gyrations over the past few weeks, we may all be feeling a bit sea sick!
You may have your eye on your budget and still be in the process of monitoring how your calendar year-end donations match up to your budget goals. But how are you feeling in general about yourself and your ability to navigate through the churning waters of the nonprofit world? Being in a leadership role of a nonprofit sometimes takes a lot of courage and self-awareness to watch the compass and hold the course and avoid getting swallowed up in the process.
How successful you are as a leader may be impacted not only by your skillset, but also by your attitude.
Writer Catey Hill offered a post on MarketWatch on January 20, 2019 entitled, “Rich people approach problems like this — and it helps explain why they're wealthy” ( See the entire post here:
Hill points to a study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology done in 2016 finding that optimists tend to earn more money and be more successful than pessimists. Hill goes on to say that rich people who accumulate a lot of wealth usually tend to be more optimistic. This also seems to be true for people who get promoted and are successful in other areas of their professional life.
I would venture to say that this is much more than seeing the glass half empty or half full. It has more to do with our belief that our actions can make a difference. Do you confidence in your own ability to make things happen or do you feel tossed around by the storms of fate? The more we believe that we can truly make a difference, the more likely we will have an impact on our direction. Sure, we could get caught up in pie-in-the-sky thinking, and we all have seen people who have big dreams that fail or fall short of their hopes. Most of us have had our share of failures—that is how we learn. But optimists can regroup and try again.
As you dust off your strategic plan for this year, how can you tell what is realistic and what is just a pipe dream that sounded good last year?
This is where the rubber hits the road! But remember, you are a trained professional and probably very passionate about your mission and service. Is your passion still strong? Is your vision still clear? Have you reviewed your measurable goals and benchmarks and made the necessary adjustments?
If so, then you are probably on track to do what you have hoped to do this year. If not, it is not too late to change course. Believe in yourself; believe in your mission; believe in the ship you are steering, and you can navigate away from the naysayers and storms of self-doubt and head toward a clear horizon.
Counting the Gold
January 1, 2019
If you want money more than
You will be bought and sold.
If you have a greed for food,
you will become a loaf of bread
This is a subtle truth.
whatever you love, you are.
When I was a nonprofit executive director, December and January was the time of year I kept watch on all of the year-end donations piling up in our mail box and on-line site. I worried, paced, and prayed that we would make our year-end budget goals to the point that I kept the mail-box key at my desk. Then, I would dart downstairs each day and check our box—even during the holiday week when we were closed.
I sometimes felt greedy as I sorted through the envelopes and ran tapes on my calculator to see how things tallied up. But, like many of us in the nonprofit social services world, the never-ending stress of fundraising seemed to hang heavy, especially in December. All year long my staff and I worried, watched over, and worked with vulnerable people who were in precarious situations of various sorts. At year-end, I would hold my breath to see if we could continue to afford it!
But even as I “counted the gold” during the long, wintry days of December, I also read each name and the many notes and well wishes from people who truly cared about those less fortunate than themselves. Sometimes the notes cheered us on, thanking us for the work we were doing. But often they were expressions of deep care and concern from people who did not always have a lot to give, but did so anyway year after year.
It was then that I realized this was so much bigger than me, our budget, or getting through one more fiscal year. This was about people with big hearts. This was about people reaching out to others. This was about the embodiment of something that countered the concept of greed.
So, go ahead and count the gold! Pat yourself on the back for dedicating your time and resources for the benefit of others; for doing the heavy lifting year after year; and for being accountable and responsible to your mission, clients, and generous donors!
Whatever role you have in supporting charitable work, you have invested much love, care, and effort. This is who you are!
May the 2019 New Year bring you great peace and countless blessings!
An ongoing series of informational entries
Coming soon . .
Are you Getting Enough R & R?
November 25, 2018
The end-of-the-year rush is upon us--fundraising appeals, newsletters, and reports are due. These deadlines coupled with the holiday season can add to our already full days.
You may be planning to have some down time during the holidays, but I urge you to not hold your breath until that break comes. Or you may collapse before you get there!
When I was an Executive Director, I remember being told by a clergy friend to meditate every morning and write down 5 things that I was grateful for. This sounded easy enough, so I tried it. By Day Two, I was feeling even more overwhelmed with one more thing on my daily “To Do” list.
So, I opted for doing this just once a week and writing down one thing.
Sometimes, even this was hard, as I often felt grumpy or rushed. But, I reasoned, it was just once a week. Surely, I could fit it in. I started with easy things like really appreciating my hot, bold coffee on a chilly morning. During some weeks, I took a spontaneous moment toward the end of the day to gaze outside at an incredible sunset and marvel about the glory of nature.
Soon I added five minutes of deep, meditative breathing to these spontaneous moments and it became easier and easier to take these breaks during the week. It also became easier to think of things I was grateful for in deeper, and increasingly, more meaningful ways.
My cranky moods soon found less fertile ground in which to sow their weary seeds, and my spirit gradually lifted. I began to crave these brief moments which brought me some much needed inspiration and revitalization.
I suggest that you try to find these spontaneous moments during your week to give yourself a break especially when you are feeling most overwhelmed or harried. Simply breaking the rhythm of these busy periods can go a long way to decrease their negative impact.
Remember, it only takes just 10 to 15 minutes a week to breathe deeply and notice something good. It will become addictive. I promise! We have a long journey ahead of us. Let’s make sure we take a little time to nourish our own spirit, as we help create a better world!
Calling All Angels -- Do today’s politics weigh heavy on your soul?
November 10, 2018
For those of us who have eagerly waited to help restore checks and balances to our government, November has been a good month! We just witnessed a huge wave of hope emerging, swelling up from all parts of our Country. And for months now, we have witnessed and maybe even taken part in marches, grassroots political movements, and supported sweeping numbers of new political faces who have picked up the torch of hope, fairness, and dignity.
Yet, we may still be feeling the results of battle fatigue.
For those who provide nonprofit leadership, our work may seem hard enough to do without the heaviness of today’s politics. Even so, I hope you can appreciate that the work you do is truly making a difference in the world and in the lives of many people. And, I think you should also pat yourself on the back for filling in the gaps left by our governmental agencies as they continue to cut back social and community services.
You may be feeling more weary than usually following months of political divisiveness, heated rhetoric, and way too much negative news – fake and real.
There are days when I feel as if my head may explode if I continue to watch another cable news broadcast or see one more online news article labeled, “For You”! Really? For me? I don’t remember ordering these horrific news alerts that buzz my phone at 7 in the morning before coffee has even touched my lips!
I have read reports that a lot of people in our country have been dealing with heightened anxiety and overwhelming feelings of despair and hopelessness. Steven Stosny, Ph.D. wrote a post for Psychology Today over a year ago on April 22, 2017 dealing with Trump anxiety following the election. He cites a survey commissioned by CareDash.com, an on-line healthcare site, which found that 59% of Americans were anxious following the 2016 elections. Read his entire post at the link below: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/anger-in-the-age-entitlement/201704/how-cope-trump-anxiety
We have had good reason to be concerned. For the past two years, we have witnessed excessive harsh and negative rhetoric that has enveloped people in fear – fear that is rampant, raw, and often unwarranted.
Yet, despite this fear-mongering, people have still managed to pull up the best part of themselves and rise above some of the worst instincts of others. Stosny also states in his post that feeling helpless and powerless leads to anxiety and depression, and that taking some form of action to change our situation is a healthy step. I suggest to anyone who continues to feel concerned about our current local and global state of affairs, to do something, anything, to make a positive difference, no matter how small.
Simple things like being a little more patient and caring toward your staff, family, and friends may infuse just a little more hope into their day and yours as well. If you have a spiritual or religious practice, now is the time to give it more attention. If you have a favorite political movement, petition, or organization you want to support, follow through with that email or donation.
Hope is the opposite of fear. Hope is not frivolous or fake. Hope is what gave rise to our very constitution and forms the foundation of our great nation. Hope is real; it is concrete; and it is the cornerstone and very essence of our American tradition.
Now is the time for calling in the angels. Are you one of them?