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The nonprofit world is unique. We’re mostly people here because the robot that can do our job has yet to be invented. Mistakes and blunders can and do happen. This is the measure of what makes us human, along with our compassion, drive, integrity, loyalty, not to mention conviction and impressive fortitude.

Think for a minute about who is drawn to nonprofit work? Altruistic people, hardworking people intent on making a difference, determined and sometimes relentless. People who are harder on themselves that anyone else. People who thrive in busy environments and work to ambitious targets but sometimes need a nudge when the workload gets too heavy or stressful.

With this is mind, here are some simple, practical ways that we can look after our own (and our teams’) well-being, improve our performance, get more productive, and build a better work/life balance.


fundraising mistakes


1.  Stop courting burnout.

Burnout, exhaustion, overwork, call it what you will. It isn’t always easy to recognize, not in your staff, and certainly not in yourself. For example, sometimes “good –enough” results are more than sufficient. Save perfection for the really vital issues, don’t beat yourself and others up for mistakes.


2.  Quit saying, “I don’t know how.”

Build your skill-set and develop your abilities. You can learn through work reviews and peer conversations, listen to podcasts, read up on best practices, read books on nonprofit management, and reflect on your performance.


3.  Don’t get lost in the distractions.

Ditch disruptions like email, social media, and uninvited guests to improve productivity. Set specific blocks of time to deal with email or visitors. Be sure to have a clear understanding about what you are working on and why.


4.  Not training up your discipline-ability.

Discipline starts with doing the small things faithfully, growing your credibility and confidence to do the big things well. Start with those little tasks that seem trivial; unanswered e-mails or a messy office, and get on top of it now.


5.  Forgetting to celebrate successes.

Take time to celebrate achievements. The wins are why you joined the social sector in the first place. Success is sweet but not so much if it isn’t shared and enjoyed.


6.  Biting off more than you can chew.

We fall in love with the idea of helping others, yet tend to forget the massive responsibility we are taking on. Know how much work success actually takes. Considering a career move? Intern for someone who is already where you hope to be and get a realistic understanding of the position you’re coveting.


7.  Not scrutinizing your misses.

Focus on what hasn’t worked so well the past year. Don’t think of the false step as a washout, but more as a great opportunity to learn. Maybe your event was dwarfed by a big news story or some community gathering. Was the messaging not clear or the audience not right? What did you want to try but never did?


8.  Running from a challenge.

Too often we run from challenges instead of digging in and seeing our aim through to the end. Stop looking for the easy way to achieve your objectives. Plot out a course for your group and commit to follow it through no matter what.


9.  Getting stuck in the problems.

Know your problems but keep your focus on the solutions. Seeing only the problem promotes desperation and negativity.


10. Never saying “no.”

So many people today feel they must help everyone that asks. In the process they lose themselves or burn themselves out. The art of saying “no” is one we all need to master.


11. Ignoring social media guidance.

Your social media posts are a great way to guide next year’s plan. Facebook and Twitter analytics will show you what posts resonated with your followers. Don’t copy the old year’s message, but use what your fans loved – the pictures, surveys, questions and videos – to map out your next marketing moves.


12. Not prioritizing for your staff.

Not everything is a four alarm fire. Your staff needs to understand what can and can’t wait. You wouldn’t want them burning out. People who burn out are unhappy and unproductive. Your mission, your clients, your co-workers deserve more than that.


13. Ignoring the importance of gratitude.

Never underestimate the value of thanking a coworker. It’s easy to doubt our abilities from time to time, so being made to feel appreciated can have a big impact on our well-being, self-esteem and productivity.


14. Not patiently listening to colleagues.

When staff members have a problem, don’t immediately interrupt with a plan to fix their crisis. Start practicing patience and listening better before diving in with your solution.


15. Allowing negativity to waste your time.

Being successful at anything involves removing negativity from our lives. Drama is everywhere. If you are feeling down and depressed, try tuning out the news, don’t read newspapers, and stop joining in when those around you grumble and moan.  You’ll soon feel freer and keen to take positive action to move forward.


16. Taking no notice of your coworkers.

Take time to pay attention to your colleagues. Notice and compliment the people around you – kind words can boost those who are struggling. To build a happy group you need to treat everyone as an individual.


17. Not talking about these issues with your people.

Make a space in the calendar for a staff meeting for their ideas to meet the question of overwork head-on. Make some commitments and implement these changes. Ask them what they need – help, equipment, a chance to vent? If you don’t talk about it, nothing will be done about it.

We all make mistakes in our career.  Don’t regret them, use them to grow.If you are guilty of any of these classic errors and you’ve found a unique solution, please share it with us in the comments below!




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