One of my favorite sayings these days is Happy Accidents. But I want to give credit where credit is so deserved. I first heard this wonderful saying while watching the TV Artist Bob Ross. While many have become familiar with Bob over these last several years, I am proud to say I was a fan in the early 90's when you could only catch the shows in their original form on PBS. The show was originally taped in Muncie Indiana - I have no idea why - and the final season wrapped in 1994 (I think). Sadly Bob passed away shortly thereafter but his legacy for calm and creativity have lived on. And now, 20 plus years later, he and his half hour shows demonstrating easy effortless landscape painting have found new audiences and can be seen on streaming networks. Some trivia to start your morning!
My original point was that Bob often stated "we don't make mistakes, we just have Happy Accidents". He shared this because while he may have been using different colors or painting a range of landscapes, there was a clear process and discipline to his work. By following this approach he came up with unexpected but wonderful results. The sum of those Happy Accidents was the creation of a painting that had started off in his imagination.
I see many parallels when we do we do or as Seth Godin often calls "our art". It comes from developing practices that are the truest expression of ourselves. For me, I love creating new connections with nonprofits and their leaders. My practices are doing a few things every day - invitations to conversations, responded to requests for help, sharing ideas - that speak to that commitment to connecting. I find that the more consistently I do these activities, the more these Happy Accidents seem to find their way into my work.
Yesterday I was having a conversation with a leader in the nonprofit space. She runs an organization that is doing truly groundbreaking work. What's also interesting is that she runs her nonprofit in a unique way that challenges the typical ways we tend to look at nonprofits. But I'm going to leave this leader to tell her story - and I've been pleased to be able to share some suggestions for doing so. So I'll leave that there.
What I wanted to focus on today in this brief note is the need for new and original thinking in the nonprofit space. We need more Thought Leaders.
As we were talking about her path yesterday, I shared some information about Dan Pallotta, his books Uncharitable and Charity Case and perhaps the most intriguing of all, his Ted Talk. The talk is called The Way We Think About Charity is Dead Wrong and I've conveniently provided the link HERE. I shared this because 1) I am a huge proponent of what he's suggesting (you either know this or will shortly find out) and 2) I was using him as an example of someone moving beyond simply being an author - he's become a Thought Leader for what I'll call the helping sector.
I'm using "helping" because Dan has written and talked about moving away from the whole concept of nonprofits. The word nonprofit has implications - many that are negative. So why not elevate the language from the "no" or negative? Why not give the sector the respect it deserves for focusing on solving major problems.
So you can call today's short post a recruiting call for New Thought Leaders. And by the way, I'm not talking about some new strategies or tactics for raising money. Or a new approach to management or even leadership. Not at all. I'm talking about truly challenging the paradigms that have characterized this work for so long. Since I love the idea of I don't know what I don't know, I'll suggest that The world can't wait for the breakthrough thinking we can't wait for.
The World Is Waiting for You and your thinking. Don't keep us waiting.
As I'm writing today, I realize I've put myself in a place of what I'll call positive pressure. Today I have an overload of ideas I'm excited to write about - there's almost a nervous energy to it. This the result of having a genuine interest in things I've been writing about here for the last few days including the concept of No Just Means Not Yet. It also includes looking at alternative structures for solving significant social problems like health issues, homelessness and hunger. Notice I'm not using the work nonprofit here. I'm truly questioning the most effective structure, industry - I'm not even totally sure of the word - for solving these issues besides the current one where charities are forced to fundraise to solve these problems.
Beyond the above, I had the privilege of spending 90 minutes with Steve Chandler along with my colleagues in Melissa Ford's Intentional Prosperity for Coaches Program. Wow! I walked away with so takeaways that I could be writing for days instead of just 15 minutes. SO, the winner among all these competing thoughts is.....SLOW DOWN!
I realized as I sat down to write today how grateful I am to be able to learn from people like Steve, Melissa and the rest of my group. Moreover, having lots of ideas to start creating from is wonderful and the best thing I can do is realize it's not a race. I don't have to hit each one of these ideas out of the park today. I have the opportunity to SLOW DOWN, give each of them their due time, focus and ultimately share them as appropriate. That might mean doing some free writing on them. It might mean sharing them in coaching sessions. It could even mean doing nothing with some of them for a bit while they percolate.
But ultimately, SLOWING DOWN allows me to focus whether on creating, tackling a problem or challenge and most important of all, being of service to someone I'm coaching or working with in some other capacity. Try it.
The free writing experiment from yesterday is still going on but as I mentioned, sometimes ideas for writing come at the most interesting times....
Like 1:23 AM this morning. Really. I was doing what I'm not supposed to be doing and had my phone next to my bed. As often happens, I woke up and broke the "don't look at your phone" rule which is notorious for creating disruptive sleep. Very accurate.
I looked at an email message that had come from an old colleague with a nonprofit I had worked at fifteen years ago. As part of my 17 invitations a day, I had reached out to her six months ago. Her email started off with an apology for not having responded sooner. But more interestingly, she shared that work at her organization had become incredibly challenging and had her thinking of her career trajectory. Ultimately, she wanted to take me up on my offer of a conversation.
This was such a pleasant reminder of why I do what I do and hope that you'll consider doing something similar. As a reminder, I make it my business to reach out to connect or re-connect with 17 people every day. Why 17? Well, that's a longer story. Suffice to say that it's what I've determined to be the optimum number to create the results I want to create this year for both me and those I work with.
But back to you and why I suggest doing this. My story above is the perfect illustration that a No (as in no response or a no) simply means Not Yet. I won't pretend for a minute that I created this concept. Two of my favorite coaches, Jeff Gitomer and Steve Chandler say it numerous times in their writing, speaking and coaching. I just happen to love when I can say authentically that it's true with a live example like the one above.
If you're a fundraiser, this concept is relevant for prospective donors and partners you may reach out to. And if you're a coach - or for that matter anyone that creates a business by starting conversations - I hope this gives you a little bit of inspiration for getting your day going. Have a good one!
I'm trying something new today. At the suggestion of a colleague, I've been reading a book called the "Accidental Genius" where one of the central themes is "free writing." This is essentially what many people might call private writing or journaling. The main emphasis here is writing fast and continuously. The only thing that's not so different than what I typically do - or have been doing for the past two months or so - is setting a timer. I typically set my timer but in truth, I do it once I've landed on a topic. Sometimes I've come up with a topic way before I sit down to write. I seem to get a decent number of ideas when I'm running or cycling in the morning. That's probably the result of having a clear mind. Or at least the only thought occupying my mind is how can I do this a little better, a little faster or more efficiently. So, while I wouldn't say that's "cheating" the process, I'm typically starting with something.
The other big difference is that I share my stuff with you, the readers.
Today is different. I set the timer and started exactly what you're reading right now. By reading this you're participating in a live experiment or beginning of a newer practice. I truly have no idea where this will land but in the hopes of coming up with something interesting - or perhaps it will be where we start tomorrow - I'll throw down three topics:
Volunteer Recruitment and Management in the Virtual World
Hmmm....I realize these are things I've written about over the last few weeks so they're top of mind. So, I'm going to push for three new topics that come to mind:
How to build a fundraising program
How to create a more vibrant nonprofit community wherever you are
How to change the dynamic of nonprofits today.
I like the last one. While it's been discussed before and I have no doubt there are a few books on it, here's the big question: Is there a better model for organizations that concern themselves with solving the world's social problems? Diving in a little deeper, what is better in this case? Well, currently, the mindset is that (for the sake of this discussion, let's call them helping organizations or help orgs for short) should adhere to what Dan Pallotta once described as the Puritan model for charity.
He was referring to the fact that charities originated from our forefathers need to do penance for what they deemed were the capitalistic tendencies they brought to the New World. They were buying and selling land, trading and a host of other things that they looked at as somewhat sinful. So they felt they needed to do something redeeming. This is where the concept of tithing started as well. From this mindset, charity was born. I might not have all of this down perfectly but that's the gist. You can learn more in either of Dan Pallotta's books Charitable or Charity Case. I highly recommend both.
Well, the timer just went off. If you've continued with me this far, Thanks for playing! I think we might be on to something interesting and I'll continue tomorrow. Unless the fast writing takes me in a new direction.
Last week I had a call with a potential coaching client. The call was going quite well - or so I thought. The beginning couldn't have been better. The gentleman I was speaking with was very complimentary. In fact, he had been referred to me from another coaching client that was pleased with the progress we had made. As such, our discussion began with him sharing what he had heard about me and that he was already grateful to be speaking with me. I can't deny that it was flattering - it's always nice to be appreciated.
We spent time talking through the issues he wanted to focus on. He asked a few questions about process and logistics and I responded. But then something turned. I truly have no idea what happened. Was it something I said? I'll never know. It became clear in the last five minutes of our call that he wanted to end it. He abruptly thanked me and said he'll be in touch. Rarely a good sign.
I reflected on our call. It wasn't vastly different then others I've had. I felt frustrated - maybe I hadn't given my best. I didn't want to put him in a place of discomfort so I emailed him instead of calling. My goal wasn't to back him into a corner and tell me what had happened. Maybe it was even my imagination. Instead, I shared that I enjoyed speaking with him, offered two insights I thought might be helpful, attached an article I had written I felt would be relevant to our discussion and invited him to another conversation if he thought it would serve him. I wouldn't call it a do-over but , It was my attempt to elevate my level of service. To go beyond.
I felt worlds better after this. Not because I thought I felt sure the gentleman would become a client. Not because I showed him how thoughtful I am or what a good writer a I am. Purely because I decided I can offer something better. And I did.
I was having an interesting conversation yesterday with a nonprofit leader yesterday. We were discussing that one of the immense challenges of Covid for charities is utilizing volunteers. It's understandable. For many organizations, they've had to re-imagine programs utilizing a virtual format. Fortunately this enables them to continue their programming. But from a volunteer perspective, it does create some limitations in how volunteers can be put to work. While I've been a big advocate for not allowing Covid to be a maximum disruptor, this is an area where I see a clear change: it's not hard to understand that for example a volunteer facilitator on a virtual platform can handle many more participants than what would be called for in a live setting.
I believe it's more important to share the opportunity that came out of our discussion of this challenge. And it's this: Just because you can't immediately utilize a volunteer's talents and willingness to serve today, it doesn't mean they can't become an active part of your community. Create structures that can engage them until opportunities to serve are available. This could be a new Volunteer Leadership Committee. It could be a quarterly conference with your ED to keep them up to date on the valuable work your charity continues to do. These are just a few ideas that came out of this conversation.
Don't pass on a volunteer's willingness and eagerness to serve you and those you serve. Get creative and design opportunities that keep these folks engaged until you can offer them the chance to be of service
Since I'm a consultant and coach that does quite a bit of work with nonprofit organizations, I spend a decent amount of time thinking and writing about prospecting. I do so because I'm always looking for new clients - nonprofits and their leaders - to be of service to. I also talk to those new clients about prospecting; as fundraisers, they need to be diligent about introducing their good work to new volunteers, board members, donors and others that can be supportive of their missions.
One thing I've learned from working in these two professions is that in general, lots of people don't like prospecting. In fact, I've heard fundraisers say I'm great at sharing our mission and engaging donors - I just hate having to find them. And coaches say things like "I love and am great at coaching - I just wish the clients would knock on my door and say I'm ready."
Interestingly, this notion of people coming to you (as a fundraiser or coach) is similar to what a store owner experiences; they have a location, customers come in, look around and either buy or don't buy.
So, let's go with that....
You are a store (or business) owner. Your store is YOU! You are the main offering and you get to decide the different ways you package yourself. But the really cool thing is, you're not stuck in one location. You get to bring your store anywhere you want. You can truly offer your store anywhere to anyone and pretty much any time you want.
Here's the difference: You're only really open when you're out there bringing it. Of course, hopefully customers will come knocking at the door through referrals or due to other marketing activity. But if you really want to have a busy, active and prosperous store, you've got to be open for business.
The BIG question: Is your store truly open for business?
Yesterday I touched on two of my favorite ideas: The value of daily practices and The Brilliance of the Perfectly Average Day, a concept I learned about from Michael Neill, one of my favorite authors and coaches.
I felt like I wanted to devote a bit more time to the Average Day Concept, particularly as I work with many people in the fundraising and coaching world. Again, the idea here is to move away from the classic "Great Day" that we tend to wish for each other. When you say to someone Have A Great Day! what you're often saying is that you hope their day exceeds expectations.
I know I know - at lot of analysis on a simple greeting. But stay with me and go a little deeper. We often think of that great day if we're in (for example) fundraising as the day we did more outreach and got more gifts. Let's say your "great day" was in the beginning of the week on Monday. You talked to five new prospects and got a commitment for a $25,000 gift. Wow! But then you say well, I can chill for a bit. You do what I call grazing for the next two days and Thursday and Friday, you pick up the pace again. Over the last two days you talk to three more solid prospects and secure another $10,000. Not a bad week! - Eight new donor contacts and $35,000 in new support for your organization. If you did that every week for a year, you'd pull in $1.8 million and talk to over 400 new donors.
But what if you just went for average BUT consistent every day work. Every day, you talk to three new people. Not as many as that great day but not bad. And you're not even so effective at securing donations but, every day you manage to secure a total of $10,000 even if it's from a few smaller donors. So, you're just average, do the same old thing every day, talk to 15 people and raise $50,000 per week. That's nearly 800 people and over $2.5 million raised per year.
Far fetched? Maybe a bit but you get the point. Figure out what daily practices you need i.e. reach out to someone new every other hour. Then go about you business.
Daily practices done in a very average way can lead to big results.
This morning I have a very tight schedule due to some driving I need to do across the state. Given that commitment - and my current difficulty sleeping - I was up and running at about 5:15. I was back at 6:15, the dog was walked and fed by 6:45 and by 7:10. Then I did five minutes of mediation, 5 minutes of reading from a book I've been taking my time with and now here I am about 12 minutes into my 15 minutes of daily writing.
Why share all of this with you? It was a good reminder to me that even with a tighter schedule then I usually have, I am still a creature of habit. And I say that with humility and happiness. For me, having daily practices is a great foundation for having a good day. Even doing a little bit of mediation, a little reading and a little writing puts me in the place I want to be.
By the way, notice that I didn't say my daily practice equals a perfect day or even a great day. I note that because I'm continually inspired by The Power of A Perfectly Average Day. This is a concept shared by Michael Neill, one of my favorite coaches in his book "The Inside Out Revolution." The premise is that we're often going for that great day when our productivity is through the roof, we win over every potential client we were hoping for and on it goes. But what about the next day? Maybe it's just so so. Michael's point is if every day we established an average or baseline but we were able to do that EVERY DAY, can you imagine what we could achieve? For example (and something I've written about) what would it mean for your life if you started five new conversations every day?
Here's my point: Do you have daily practices to kick-off your day? If not, try it. I don't mean try mine - unless you want to that is. But find out what grounds you, wakes you up and gets you going. Make today the start of your daily average day. It could add up to a lifetime of fulfillment.