Happy New Year 2016

by Priscilla Bratcher

I know, I know. I’m still writing 2014 on my checks, too (yes, I still write checks; who doesn’t?) So what’s this about 2016? I’m suggesting that we keep next January in mind as we begin our work this year, that’s all.

Ever heard the expression “Begin with the end in mind?” Of course, you say. But my work demands that I make lots of little decisions every day. I can’t always be focused on the destination when the journey is often made in small, tedious steps. True enough. But we all have choices to make every day, so here are some thoughts that might make reaching next January with a sense of accomplishment a little easier.

* Plan the work and work the plan. This is one of my favorite mantras and the way I interpret it is that we need to calendarize activities and goals and then stick to them throughout the year. Of course, I do know that this is nonprofit work and no one’s day, much less entire year, ever works out the way we think it will. Flexibility is crucial to achieving success in our field, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t plan. I heard a presentation earlier this week from a new staff member of an organization who was seeking funding for a big event. The goal of the event was to create a buzz so that he could grow the program. He had great passion and energy and a wonderful event laid out. But he hadn’t planned the crucial follow-up steps designed to achieve his goal of expanding the program. He did get the money, and a strong suggestion to plan how to leverage the event for long-term program success. So plan, yes, but also look at the plan and modify it if necessary throughout the year.

* What to do first? This week I met a woman working for a cause who has so much to do that she can’t even prioritize. Her time is spent putting out fires. How in the world can she be effective? Her office is a mess (guest chairs piled with overflowing binders, stacks of folders and papers surrounding her computer monitor so that she hardly had room to move the mouse.) She is smart and dedicated but how can she possibly sort out what to do at any given moment? This month make that “to do” list and then number it in order of importance. Then tackle number one.

* Take care of important relationships. Despite our fantasies, not one of us is a hero, slaying a social problem dragon singlehandedly. We need a team. We need people we work with, others we already know and then even more people whom we don’t yet know. Make time to nurture relationships with co-workers, volunteers and donors. It will not only make the work more pleasant, but we’ll actually get to the goal more quickly.

* Forgive our own errors and failings and those of others. We in the nonprofit world have a tendency to see our own inadequacies through highly magnified lenses and the glass is always half empty. All I can say to that is stop it! No one expects us to be perfect and, guess what, we’re not! Be as easy on yourself and those around you as you would on the people you serve. Ours is a human endeavor. Let’s embrace and celebrate all our flawed variety with kindness and understanding.

* Breathe. Laugh. Relax. I know December is right around the corner and we have to make our goals, but each moment in each day is a chance to enjoy what we’re doing and the people with whom and for whom we work so hard. There’s no crime in a good belly laugh and, I’m told, it can bring tremendous health benefits!

So here’s to 2015, a year in which we are going to plan, prioritize, connect with others, eschew perfectionism and have some fun. Having given you this thoughtful advice, I am now going to try to live by it. Join me in the attempt! Let’s check in again in January 2016.

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