Guest Post: Workplace Inspiration — In the Shadows

By Jen Price

During a recent #smNPchat on Twitter (chat for those working for or with smaller nonprofit organizations), the discussion covered strategies for fundraisers during the slower summer months.

Slow summer months?  WHAT?  Summer is my busiest season, though this is somewhat by choice.  I like to focus my larger scale efforts during times when not as many organizations are asking. Yes, I miss some of the vacationers.  We more than make up for it with the exposure we get and because very few nonprofits are asking or creating awareness during the summer in our community.

During the chat I mentioned that one of the things my staff does during the summer (our busy season) is shadow “program” staff at our organization.  I work in healthcare, so all it takes is getting fundraisers in the patient care areas, experiencing a day in the life of individuals battling complex medical problems to get them refocused and re-energized.

Our most successful shadowing experience this summer was unexpected.  It came not from a patient care area, but from a staffer spending two hours with a receptionist.  Seeing the integral part the receptionist plays in the overall success of our organization inspired a new sense of focus and belief that each and every staff member, regardless of their role, makes a difference in the lives of our patients.

Getting overwhelmed by work happens far too often in the nonprofit sector.  When work only consists of tasks on a to-do list, it loses passion and energy.  We are not going to be successful fundraising if we are asking for gifts without this passion or energy. Shadowing has become the perfect rejuvenator for my team.

With all of that said, here is my recommendation: Create a shadowing program. Allow your staff to spend two hours once a week for a month each summer and winter learning about different roles in your organization.  They will return ready to embrace their work with the passion it deserves.

Jen helps nonprofits advance their impact via fundraising, collaboration, and effective board and volunteer management.  She currently manages philanthropy operations for a healthcare organization.  Be sure to check out her website and follow her on Twitter!

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Quick Tips: Overcoming Writer’s Block When Writing Appeals

Last month, I took part in #smNPchat — the Twitter chat for  small non-profit organizations interested in learning more about fundraising and marketing.  During the course of the chat, we ended up sharing some great tips on how to overcome writer’s block while working on an appeal.

A few of the best ideas are below:

  • Write longhand — it may allow you to more freely develop your ideas
  • Walk away and come back to it later
  • Get inspiration by spending time with program staff and clients. (Keep your eyes open in the next few weeks for a guest post that further explores this topic!)
  • Make some thank you calls to donors to reconnect with what really inspires them about your organization and its mission.

One tip that has been helpful to me is to write free-form or stream of consciousness to get some basic ideas down and then come back to it another day.

What strategies do you use to overcome writer’s block while working on an appeal (or anything else in your fundraising work)?

Be sure to follow Pamela Grow, the coordinator of the #smNPchat, on Twitter — @PamelaGrow — and take part in the next chat (see chat schedule here).

For more on the topic of writing great appeals, check out Mary Cahalane‘s guest post on Pamela’s blog here.


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