If you don’t stop doing something, you’ll go blind. The curse of working in a small nonprofit.


Hey, you! Yea, you. The one who works for a small nonprofit with a volunteer board of directors. The one who’s supposed to raise money and friends, along with a bunch of other things (like answering the phones and making sure there’s toilet paper in the restroom).

This is for you. You know who you are. You are overwhelmed. You feel small and insignificant. You read lots of posts and articles that make it seem like you don’t do enough, aren’t savvy enough, or can’t keep up. You try with all your might to “get” social media, but really don’t understand nor have the time. You spend all your time dealing with day-to-day issues and managing your board of directors. You want to succeed. You want your nonprofit to succeed. You want to change the world. That’s what gets you out of bed in the morning. I know. I’ve been there.

Here’s a news flash: you can’t do it all.

Sorry. It’s the truth. Not even if you worked 100 hours a week (and you sometimes come close to that).

My advice: stop worrying about and losing sleep over the things you can’t do or control. Stop trying to do more than you can. You have to prioritize your time and energy or you’ll never get to the things that matter. IMHO, you must make it a priority to engage prospects and donors in the life of the organization and demonstrate sincere gratitude to each one. Bottom line is that the personal relationships you create with INDIVIDUAL donors must be your first and primary objective. Until you are successful doing that, don’t get sidetracked with anything else. Period.

Here’s the best piece of advice I’ve ever gotten (HT to Doug Lawson) or given ( and I’ve given lots of advice). Really: this is all I’ve got. People have even paid me for this:

Have lunch once a week with a board member or major donor and listen to them about what they think about your nonprofit. Listen. Listen. Listen. Make it a standing day of the week and automate the scheduling as much as possible.

That’s it. That’s all I got.

But know this dear colleague: you have all the talent and passion you need to change the world. If not you, who?