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?
As someone who has pretty much said verboten the same thing that you are talking about, you have no idea ho much weight you have taken off my very tight and stressed neck back and shoulders.
I founded a nonprofit in January of this year, and while I have been blessed with a corps of volunteers that to date have collectively clocked over 500 hours with me, there have even been times where managing their incredible contributions has been a source of stress. My volunteers have supported me and given me time to do my “real” job of educating supporting and selecting my Board of Directors, but as the person running the show, so to speak, I feel constantly behind, often overwhelmed, and have on occasion questioned myself and my ability to realize our successful launch. We have three projects planned to commence this year; and I still met to enrich a culture that includes Board members who will assist m development activities and strengthen the mission of the organization, volunteers that are committed to the work and who feel valued, and engage both service recipients and benefactors to put their trust in what we are doing. I won’t even talk about how many pages I have hole punched for binders, now many phone calls i have taken from sales professionals wanting to offer me their product or an estimate for their service, or how many times I have met a programmatic goal just a day late.
Like I said, there have been times, that I have questioned my competence to see this through. I have even at one put out a search on a business bulletin to get a consultation that would assess my skills and deficiencies, and then get some direction on what can or reds to be done to get myself up to speed or begin searching for my replacement. We did recently win our first competitive grant, part of which is being used to file the 1023 form for federal exemption, which gives me a lot of recharge: I already know several considerable donations that are on hold until we have a 501(c)3 letter of compliance, but it’s frustrating to be trying to get myself up off the ground when I know that my first paycheck of the year (coming later this month) is going to be $300, and I have been going 60-80 hours a week just to stay afloat.
I know that starting anything has its difficulties, growing pains, and obstacles. Experiencing them first-hand while I hear from former colleague who have remained in their jobs and maintain satiability both professionally and personally can get very frustrating when my pay cut from last year to this year will be easily 75%.
I believe that in six months I will be happier than I have ever been professionally, due to successfully achieving enough funding to support our general operations and maybe a little increase to my salary. Right now, though, that seems VERY far off, and when there are not a lot of people out there starting new nonprofits, it can feel very much like the needed peer support that is one of my top three needs, is very sparse and difficult to find. Thank you for explaining to me that I am not alone with my current position of wearing 20 different professional hats, and for also showing me, just from your acknowledgement of being there yourself, that it will get better!