What are the golf balls in your non-profit organization’s jar?

I have people in my life who I consider friends that like to spam my email inbox. I bet you have friends like that, too. It isn’t malicious, but it is annoying. However, every once in a great while they catch me in the right mood, and I open one of those emails. Typically, I find sappy stuff about friendship and other times it is a modern-day chain letter. This last weekend, I opened one of those emails and found a fun little video about life and priorities. After a little reflection, I decided  there is a lot of wisdom in that video as it pertains to your non-profit organization.

Rather than spam your email inbox, you can either click here or on the picture below to view the short little inspiration video produced by simpletruths.com.

Borowski video screen shot

Cute . . . sappy . . . everything that I promised. Right?

However, what if the pickle jar in the video wasn’t your life, but it instead represented your non-profit organization? What would those “golf balls” (aka those things that are most important to your organizational mission and success)?

Here is a short list (in no particular order) of what I think your golf balls should be:

  1. Clients
  2. Staff
  3. Board volunteers
  4. Donors
  5. Program volunteers

jar of golf ballsI suspect many of you are nodding your heads right now. However, stop and think about your last week and where you spent your time. I suspect that many of you focused lots of time, energy and resources on the pebbles, sand and liquid in your non-profit jar such as:

  • an upcoming fundraising event or campaign
  • facility issues
  • technology challenges
  • bookkeeping or accounting issues
  • donor database administration
  • reconciliation activities

I suspect many of you are now starting to rationalize how these activities are related to the golf balls in your non-profit pickle jar. If you’re doing that, then I encourage you to STOP.

Yes, everything is interrelated. Of course! But take a moment to step back and see the bigger picture.

It is far to easy to focus your attention as a leader on things at the granular level (aka sand). In my experience, leaders are able to focus on the little things as well as the big things.

When putting your calendar together, make sure that your schedule reflects BOTH big and little things. For example, you should be sitting down with your board volunteers in between board meeting as well as putting the agenda and board packet together. You should be meeting with the annual campaign committee to plan the next pledge drive as well as sitting down with donors over a cup of coffee to talk about how their contribution is making magic happen.

The pickle jar analogy can be used to analyze any number of activities related to your non-profit organization. You could be asking questions like:

  • What are the golf balls in my fundraising plan?
  • What are the golf balls in my board development plan?
  • What are the golf balls in my program plan?

The following are links to other bloggers who offer other lists of golf balls for other pickle jars:

Did I get your brain working on this wonderful Monday morning? Which pickle jar are you thinking about? What are the golf balls in that jar? What strategies do you use to make sure you aren’t just focusing on the sand as the days and weeks slip through our hands? Do you have time management best practices that you would like to share with your fellow non-profit friends?

Please take a moment to scroll down to the comment box and share your thoughts and experiences. We can all learn from each other.

Here’s to your health!

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

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