This morning I was reading an article about self-help advice. As it relates to individuals. This life coach had curated what she believed to be the top 10 nuggets of happiness from over 500 books. If you wish, you can read her article here. Hopefully, before you do that, you’ll have a look at mine.
While reading her list, it struck me that many of the best nuggets also relate to ourselves and the organizations we do work with ever day so, let’s have a look.
- Be yourself. The key to organizational happiness is to be yourself. Do you know who you are? I’ve never met a charity who said the work they do is simple. Every organization is so complicated. A mess of programs, personalities, missions, visions, silos. Consider the URG. What is the unique reason I (a donor) should support you? It will be a simple expression of why you exist. Think about it. 24 hours before you were founded, someone, somewhere was likely hitting their fist against a kitchen table in frustration. “This cannot be a problem in my world anymore… I need to do something about it.” Go there. Go to that emotional place. Simplify how you express what you are trying to fix, help, change. Be yourself for all of your ugly cries, weak moments and passion. We need more of those.
- You have nothing to prove. This isn’t exactly true. You do have to prove to me (a donor) that your work is worthy of my support. That my support matters. Alternatively, the moment your organization was formed, someone stepped up. Someone did something. They refused to stand by any longer. That’s important. It means that you should move forward in your work with confidence. Realizing that pleasing all donors is impossible. You really are only going to be relevant to 20% of all donors (however you want to define “all”). Be positive in your interactions with them. You aren’t begging for help. What you’re doing at this moment is enough. But we can always do more and achieve more with help and support.
- You can’t control anyone. You can’t control your donors. I’m sorry. You can’t make them give to your appeal. You can’t make them give to you online. So stop trying. Like the saying goes, “you do you.” Take advantage of the channels and the technology to share the amazing work our donors make possible. Remind them why they are so important to your cause. Have conversations with them. Be human. You do YOU. They will do the rest.
- Don’t take yourself too seriously. Seriously!!! Everyone is so freakin’ serious. So professional. So conservative. So vanilla! Lighten up! We are doing important work! How lucky are we? We are helping this world. For ourselves. For our children. For each other. Be angry. Be happy. Be funny. Be frustrated. Celebrate. Cry. Sigh. Be serious. But not all the time. When you allow yourself to be not so serious, amazing (like truly transformative) things can happen.
- You’re doing great. When was the last time you did take a moment to celebrate the little successes? If you are at your desk or out in the field and working hard, being thoughtful, going to conferences and reading blogs – you ARE trying and you ARE definitely getting better… and more importantly, you’re already doing more than many others. Keep going! Keep asking why! Keep your eyes on the prize but make no mistake – I appreciate you. Thank you for the GREAT that you do.
- The only time you have is now. This moment. You can make a decision. You can do whatever you are doing in this moment more thoughtful or you can constantly worry about things that may (or may not) come. Need a break? Take one. Thinking of a donor? Call them. Need something different? Let’s talk about it. Don’t let this moment, or the next, just pass you by.
- Failure isn’t final. It might seem like it might be but trust me. Every time you fail, you become better. You now know something important. Of value. It means you’re trying. I know it sucks, especially when you send out your dm piece which has the wrong donor name with the wrong address on every piece. Yes. This happened. But we figured out what happened, sent out an apology letter to every donor and the mailing (even with the first class follow up) beat every projection. We were human and we made a mistake. We didn’t break anything.
- 99% of limitations are imagined. Excuses, I’ve heard a few. Most of the excuses I’ve heard for more success (happier donors, better retention, higher response rates and so on) come from internal limitations. Your own. Your boss. Your board. Most limitations stem from fear. Fear of failure. Fear of being judged. Fear of moving away from the way things have always been done. All of these things stop growth. Progress. Doing better. Doing more. Acknowledge the road blocks, then find ways to go around them (assuming you can’t always go over them!).
- No one knows what they are doing either. This is the dirty secret of our sector. And life too. We are all making it up as we go along. Hopefully we are using our experiences, our brains, our hearts, our networks to help make smart decisions that will move us forward – but if you are doing the RIGHT kind of work – no one can guarantee how it will work, how successful it will be, how much of a difference it just might make. Like the saying goes, we are all just doing our best with what we know. So be kind to others and yourself.
- Only love is real. When you stop thinking of donors as data, when you write that letter with tears streaming down your face, when you lift the phone in joy knowing you will be sharing gratitude with another human for the things you – and they make possible… you are living your life emotionally, lovingly and fully. Like the article for Susie states, “You can become an instrument of love and a force for good in the world.” Do your work with love. Everyday.
(photo credit – Beate Sørum.)