What Gives Me Pause

March.  It comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb.  It’s famous for the Ides of March, St. Patrick’s Day, a host of minor holidays and many birthdays…including mine.  And this year, mine is a big one.

I—like most of us—think that I am still 36.  On some days, I think I’m 17.  But clearly, I am nowhere near either of those ages. Lion and Lamb

“When are you retiring?” people ask me.

“Why don’t you hang it up,” ask the women at my gym.

But I don’t want to retire.  I (mostly) love what I do.

It’s that (mostly) that gives me pause.

Thinking about what you do and how you do it is an exercise of no little import.  I’ve written elsewhere about my love for my routines, my habits—and the need to sometimes shake it up.  A young man at my gym has just been hired to teach swimming and for weeks I’ve circled around him, wondering if I was interested enough to go out and buy a bathing suit.  I’m not there yet but I am considering it seriously.  My workouts are starting to feel stale and I think that more than changing one or two things, I am in need of adding something intoxicating.

That need is what I feel about my work.  I could continue just doing what I do and it would be good.  But at this moment in time, I’m looking for better than good.  I’m looking for something that will erase the (mostly) and get me re-energized about the work I do.

Re-energizing boards, fundraising programs, staff is why most of my clients hire me. The problem, too often, is that they are not energized; it’s as if their batteries are all run down.

It’s this lack of energy that is, I think, the enemy.  We need to fundraise, find new and committed board members, create new programs, reach out to new audiences…but, sigh.  It’s all so hard and we are too busy and too tired.

And there, I see, is the (mostly) that gives me pause.

I am excited by the work my clients do.  I see so many possibilities to grow, to expand.  They see more work and an insurmountable number of barriers.

I spend a lot of time talking about attitude to my clients and in my workshops and classes.  Mostly, we are talking about fundraising.  If you think of fundraising as “hitting on” someone, or as something to be ashamed of, then fundraising is beyond hard.  It is, frankly, pretty impossible.  But if you believe, as I believe, that what you are doing is giving someone an opportunity to be part of your terrific organization or cause; that you are merely opening a door and inviting a prospective donor in to see if what you do seems important, then fundraising becomes exciting and, dare I say it?, fun.

Attitude is important for all the other things you must do in life, whether at your nonprofit or at home.  I’ve just finished teaching an annual giving course at UCLA.  My class were all people with full time jobs; many of them were also parents (another full time and then some job).  And yet, every Wednesday night, from 7-10 they were there.  Not just in body, but they were there to learn, to share, to grow.  And, frankly, it was energizing.  I kept thinking that these were the people I wanted to hire; these were the folks who will turn the nonprofit sector around.

Maybe it is time for some of us working in the sector to give ourselves a pause.  And think about why we do what we do, and what we need to accomplish.

Ask yourself, “Am I really so busy or am I just stuck in place?”  And if you are, what do you need to do to shake it up?


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