The power of writing it down

inkWelcome to O.D. Fridays at DonorDreams blog. Every Friday for the foreseeable future we will be looking at posts from John Greco’s blog called “johnponders ~ about life at work, mostly” and applying his organizational development messages to the non-profit community.

First let me start this O.D. Fridays post with an apology to DonorDreams blog readers.

For the last week, I’ve been in St. Louis with hundreds of Boys & Girls Clubs from the Midwest and Southwest regions. What an amazing conference with inspiring stories and talented board volunteers and staff members! Hats off to the national staff who planned and executed a flawless conference plan.

Unfortunately, I can’t say the same thing for me and this blog platform.

I didn’t post anything on Monday because my ride to St. Louis picked me up at 5:55 am, and I also missed the mark on Thursday because I needed to be in my exhibitor booth at 7:00 am.

Here are all of the things I’ve been trying to balance this week:

  • Writing for the DonorDreams blog community
  • Managing and staffing my exhibitor booth
  • Organizing and facilitating a training track
  • Networking
  • Working with other clients back home who are under contract and in need of attention

For those of you who know me, I usually balance competing projects fairly well. So, why did this week turn out so messy? Why did I drop the ball and not blog on Monday and Thursday?

I think some of the answers to these questions can be found on John Greco’s July 23, 2013 johnponders post titled “Ink It“. In this post, John drills down on the following Chinese proverb:

The faintest ink lasts longer than the best memory.”

Heading into this challenging week, I didn’t write anything down. I was operating with everything in my head.

I am not just talking about the power of task lists and calendars.  This has everything to do with brain science and in some instances personality types.

Now let’s take a 180 degree turn and about-face with this idea.

If you buy into what John talks about in “Ink It,” then what are you doing to encourage your:

  • staff to write things down?
  • board volunteers to write things down?
  • donors to write things down?

Again, we’re not necessarily talking about task lists and time management, which is how I started the post.

What if your board members were asked to write out their personal action plans for the upcoming year?

What if donors were asked to write out their personal stories about why they support your agency? What if you published those testimonials on your agency’s blog or Facebook page?

Would the result be a deeper sense of engagement?

Would board members be more likely to follow through on what they commit to doing? Would donors end up increasing their contributions?

I dunno . . . but if you buy into what John says about the act of writing something down, then these are questions every non-profit professional should be asking themselves.

Have you ever asked donors to share their story in writing? What was the result? How did you use it? What about engaging board members in writing out their commitments as part of a future focused action planning process centered around your strategic planning process?

Please use the comment box below to share your thoughts and experiences.

A side note of appreciation

Throughout the week at the Boys & Girls Club conference in St. Louis, I’ve been approached by countless numbers of people asking me about this blog.

Just last night, I was dragging myself off of the elevator on my way to another late night bedtime when a fellow passenger (who I’ve never met and don’t know), said “You’re that blogger! I missed your post this morning.

I just want to take a moment to sincerely thank all of you who subscribe and read this blog. I very much appreciate your time, loyalty and complements.

It is easy for me to get into that “Fred the Baker” from Dunkin’ Donuts mindset of “It’s time to make the donuts.” However, this week reminds me that this blog and your daily work is all about mission-focus, your clients, and making this world a better place.

Thank you to those of you who re-inspired me.

I’m also glad that I’ve written all of this down in ink so that this inspiration won’t fade too quickly.  😉

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847

Non-Profit Time Management: Managing Your Task List

Yesterday was Monday, which can only mean one thing at DonorDreams blog . . . it was “Mondays with Marissa” and her post was titled “Non-Profit Time Management: Scheduling Social Media Updates“. After reading Marissa’s post, it got me thinking. There has to be a million-and-one ways for non-profit professionals to improve upon managing their time. In honor of Marissa’s awesome blog post, I will take the next few days to look more carefully at time-saving tips with regards to managing your agency and implementing your resource development program.

Let’s start this conversation off by simply looking at your task list.

In the last seven days, I visited with two non-profit executive directors who both expressed utter frustration with how many things are currently on their “To Do List”. As you can imagine, not being able to get to the bottom of your task list every day adds stress to the average person’s life. This stress turns into chaos and panic when the list grows exponentially every day. Having been in the same situation, I  compare it to what I can only imagine drowning must feel like.

In an effort to help my friends, I pulled out and dusted off my old executive coaching textbooks. It was in a book titled “Coaching Questions” written by Tony Stoltzfus that I found the following nugget of good advice:

Make sure that EVERY item on that list adheres to the following four characteristics:

  • Clarity: I know exactly what to do
  • Datebook: This step can be scheduled at a specific time
  • Commitment: I know I will do this
  • Deadline: I’ve set a date for completion

I know this sounds simplistic, but when the item you’re adding to you task list doesn’t meet this four-part litmus test, then you have two options:

  1. Go back and secure the information you need in order to satisfy the test, or
  2. Don’t add it to your task list.

Tony also suggested that you re-think adding tasks to your To Do List when you hear yourself using language or phrases such as:

  • I could …
  • I might …
  • I’m thinking of …
  • If …

The reality is that times are chaotic for non-profit professionals. Donors are demanding that you do more with less. The simple prescription can be summed up in one word:


Good non-profit professionals, especially effective ones, know that they can’t do everything all at once. They seem to have mastered many of the simple aforementioned suggestions related to their task list.

How have you found focus at your non-profit agency as times have become more chaotic and demanding? Do you use a similar approach as described above? If so, how has that worked for you? What type of task list tools do you use?

Your time is in high demand and none of us should be re-creating the wheel every day. So, please scroll down the page and spend 60 seconds sharing a best practice or something that works for you with your fellow non-profit professionals.

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847