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Fundraising campaigns are one of the most significant sources of funding for most nonprofits. Most fundraising events are not without cost, however.

Preparing a budget for special fundraising events helps nonprofits avoid overspending, especially if their event does not raise an amount equal to or greater than its fundraising goal.

The Importance of Setting a Large Enough Fundraising Goal

When making plans for your nonprofit’s next fundraiser, it’s important to set an appropriate amount as your fundraising goal. This goal should be realistic; it should be an amount that your nonprofit can reasonably expect to raise during the event.

Your fundraising goal should also be for an amount that is large enough to cover all of the costs and expenses associated with the event. In addition to this amount, you will want to add a net sum that is left over after all of the costs are paid. This net sum should be large enough that it justifies the time and effort that is put into hosting the event.

The Importance of Creating a Detailed Budget Specifically for the Event

You should create a separate, completed budget that lists each expense that will arise as a result of hosting the event. This list should be thorough, and highly detailed to help you avoid under budgeting.

When creating your budget, look at the history of past, similar fundraising events held by your nonprofit. Look at the types of costs that were incurred, as well as the amounts that you have raised during these events. Can your nonprofit reasonably expect to spend a similar amount, or, have costs increased in one or more categories? Determining the answers to these questions can help you avoid underestimating the actual expenditure.

At the very least, your budget should include the cost to rent the venue for the event, as well as unique items related to the location. For example, will your nonprofit need to rent extra tables and seats or other items and equipment to hold the event at the designated location? Be certain to include realistic estimates for these items in your budget.

Catering, staffing, creating and sending invitations, security, transportation, VIP accommodations,  entertainment, ticketing, fundraising software, marketing materials, promotional and gift items/event swag are all typical expenses associated with special fundraising events, so be certain that you include these and any other costs in your budget.

Don’t Forget to Plan for the Unexpected and Include it in Your Budget

It’s also a good idea to include a built-in “cushion” in your budget to help your nonprofit be able to cover the cost of unforeseen events to help you make certain that your nonprofit has enough funds to cover the cost of the event.

Use Caution When Attempting to Cut Costs

Many nonprofits are still feeling the pinch from the global economic downturn of a few years ago, and remain short of funding, especially given the resulting cuts in Federal monies in the form of grants that many nonprofits relied upon. If your nonprofit is struggling financially, it can be tempting to cut corners to reduce spending. While reining in expenses is important, it’s equally important to avoid cutting quality.

For example, you don’t want to skimp and not spend enough on marketing, and word fails to get out about your event. You also want to make certain that you choose reliable vendors for the venue, catering, and so on. Just because one vendor offers a lower price, doesn’t mean that you can depend on them to deliver on time. Make certain that you still check references and look at past histories in addition to price when comparing services and creating your budget.

Accurately budgeting for your special event is an important part of ensuring your nonprofit’s financial stability. Don’t forget the traditional fundraising metrics such as net revenues and costs to raise when hosting your event, and preserve this information to help you more accurately forecast the budget for your nonprofit’s next special event.

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pexels-photo-261577Working or volunteering at an NFP can be a time-consuming task. It can feel like there are not enough hours in the day to get through the to-do list, let alone come up with creative ideas for fundraising activities. So what can you do to make the most of your volunteer hours?

Create a workable system

You will need to come up with a system so you can use the time you have to the best of your advantage. Organise everything so you can find it quickly; make lists, create folders, manage a diary – whatever works for your particular job or project. The better organised you are, the easier it will be to manage your time effectively.

Stop procrastinating

Often when things get busy, it is easy to spend time worrying about the mountain of paperwork or the number of items on the to-do list. The trick is to tackle them one at a time. Cross an item off the list and move on to the next one. Don’t spend your energy worrying about things – just do what needs to be done when you have the time.

Work from home where necessary

Sometimes working from home is in your best interests when you have a long or complex task to do. It can mean you can work on it in your own time without interruption, reporting back to the office as necessary. It may not work for all projects, but it could help when you are time limited and could save on much travel time between locations.

Break projects down into mini-tasks

If you are overseeing a big project, then it is often easier to bring things down into workable chunks. Plan your day so you can work on one project to completion. Then move onto something else and repeat. This will take much of the stress and overwhelm out of the work day and minimise time wastage from switching from task to task.

Avoid checking emails and messages first thing

Emails and messages can cut into your day. Try to get out of the habit of checking your emails as soon as you arrive at the office. Start working on your to-do list and save the message checking until mid-morning or mid-afternoon when you feel like you need a break. Add an automatic reply which states you will respond within a 24 hour period, so you don’t feel rushed to answer immediately.

Give yourself a break

You are only human, and you cannot do it all TODAY. Burnout will be no good for you or the NFP you are volunteering for. Do what you can, when you can and be happy with that. And if the NFP is struggling to get through the tasks set, then it may be time for them to look for an extra pair of hands to help you out. While challenging work is good for the soul, self-sacrifice will do you no good at all.

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notes-vintage-cat-symbolsTo Do List is Not for Everyone

When looking at how to increase productivity, it should be noted there are as many good processes as there are people. Those considering changing up how they get things done might be relieved to know that despite its widespread use, the classic ‘to-do’ list is not the best way for everyone. Feeling that the list will never be done, or that one is incapable of doing it can result in negative thinking patterns that ultimately reduce productivity. If you are one of the many who finds this manner of organising your work day stressful, you may want to tweak the method, or replace it entirely.

“Positive Mental Imagery” Alternative

San Francisco State University put the ubiquitous ‘to-do list’ to the test by comparing it with a technique they called ‘mental imagery’. According to James Adonis at the Sydney Morning Herald, this is a “combination of goal-setting, relaxation techniques and positive self talk”. Apparently, well over half of the 214 participants in the study preferred the latter method after a two week trial. They reported less stress about what needed to be done, and a more encouraged mental attitude towards their many tasks. Using positive mental imagery, one participant stated they “Kept up spirits in the face of adversity.” Sounds like a success story in the making.

Making the Most of It

There are times when a to-do list can be a helpful memory jolt, and useful in planning effective time management. Being able to see what is on your plate is one way to start working through it. However, the list made up of tasks that are added when they come to mind is unlikely to be the best way to go about it. Time management experts suggest dividing the list into at least two columns: one to be done today, and one for ongoing tasks. Alternatively, creating a list of “do-not-do” items might be the ticket to success. Productivity expert Laura Stack suggests being firm about not using social media during work time, not spending time gossiping or complaining, and not procrastinating are some of the ways we can get more done.

Looking Back

Another task listing method that gets positive results is the “done” list, where tasks are written down as they are completed, offering the listee feelings of satisfaction and encouragement. This way does not help plan a day’s work in the same way a to-do list can, but could be more useful for keeping a positive mental attitude. Coupled with alternative means of organising time, the “done” list can be quite effective.

Many Roads to Success

If you are experiencing doubt about your current methods of getting things done, it is a good idea to try some different ways. There is no one way for everyone, and many people find switching things up from time to time beneficial as well. Particularly if you are dissatisfied with your to-do list, it is worthwhile experimenting with different ways.

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card-1081735_640Starting a new year provides the opportunity to start afresh and open up new possibilities for yourself. One of the fundamental factors we generally forget to take into consideration, though, is that a new year doesn’t necessarily mean a new you is going to appear magically. You still take your usual self into it.

Alas, if we really want to make something of it, and benefit from the opportunity for a new beginning, or to do things in new ways, or even be a new you, then making resolutions is a good start.

If you are genuinely interested in achieving all those things you’ve stated as your resolutions; the standard lose weight, eat healthier foods, stop procrastinating, or whatever it is you’ve resolved to do, then there are three resolutions you need to make.

These three resolutions are the cornerstone for helping all your other resolutions come to fruition, and are the foundation for growth, success and an impressive 2016.

Personal Development

Agree with yourself to work on yourself. Whether you do this in the form of reading books from renowned personal development coaches, attend some seminars or courses, or follow some e-learnings, this is a must.

Improving yourself will allow you to understand what it is that’s been holding you back, and give you the tools and power to move forward. You can apply these learnings to those more tangible, measurable goals and resolutions; like the losing weight, or writing 1000 words per day.

Practice Mindfulness

This fits in neatly with improving your personal self. Being fully aware of the situations you’re in, how you’re feeling, why you’re doing what you are doing, enables you to consider how you will react to whatever is that’s going on.

Whether this is yet another uncomfortable interaction with a colleague, or you’re sitting on the couch, avoiding physical activity, you are given the power to take alternative action. You can choose to react to your colleague differently, or get up and go for that walk like you said you would.

Speaking of sitting on the couch, practicing quiet mindfulness, in a meditative way, is also of great benefit. Practice doing nothing on a daily basis. Make sure it’s a productive sort of doing nothing, though.

Awareness of Others

This is a tough one for a lot of people to grasp fully. We generally understand the concept of “walking in another person’s shoes”, but take this one step further, and practice it daily.

Again, it ties in with the other two, so you do not have to do too much extra work each day!

As you practice mindfulness, be aware of you’re the thoughts that pop into your head when you see a person; how they’re dressed, what they’re doing, how they’re behaving. What are you thinking?

When you’re confronted by a person, rather than considering walking in their shoes, think about what may be driving them to do what they’re doing in that moment. Ironically, many of us are quite happy to defend our actions by saying “I had a bad night’s sleep” or “I was rushed because the train was late”, but rarely, if ever, do they afford the same courtesy to others.

Consider the driving forces before you react. And while you’re at it, make communication skills part of your personal development!

As with all goals and resolutions, making them is nowhere near enough. Anyone can say something; it’s taking the action that will do the trick.

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christmas-998131_640

‘Tis the season to be jolly” and take a break, wind down and refresh.

It can be a struggle to refocus once you return to work for obvious reasons. Sitting at a desk for 8 hours isn’t half as much fun as laying in the sun with a good book, or watching DVDs in your pyjamas. But getting your groove back is a necessity, and there are a few tips to help with the transition from beach to office.

“The secret of getting ahead is getting started.” – Mark Twain

That first morning you wake to the alarm is going to be hard, so try not to be tempted to stay in bed too long and go into work at the last minute. Some time alone to regroup, check voice messages, open any mail and start on the inbox, before the rest of the team arrives, will help you feel organised and in control. Your first week back can be hectic, so this isn’t the week to schedule important meetings or commence big projects. Try to catch up on tasks left over from before your break and leave the hard stuff until next week.

Share your holiday stories with your co-workers and reconnect before you return to the business of goals and targets. How often do we hear people say they felt like they never relaxed and that the holiday is a distant memory within days of returning. Relish the memories of the sun, or the snow, depending how you spent the holidays, so you can knuckle down and work towards the next adventure!

Get back into a routine, or if you don’t have one, take the opportunity to create new habits. If you feel fresher in the morning, this might be the ideal time to work on new projects, make sales calls or tackle the jobs where you need extra concentration. Afternoons might be best used for administrative tasks that require less creativity. While you are playing catch up, it can be tempting to push hard, not take breaks and stay back late. Make sure you eat lunch every day, preferably at the same time, and leave on time if you can. Organisation and a fresh focus will be your friend.

Touch base with your co-workers on any joint projects, and see what work is outstanding or requires a higher priority. Getting your bearings will help you identify where to start and what direction you need to focus your energy, which is just the boost you need.

“Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.” – Arthur Ashe

Simple pleasures will help you make the holiday feeling last, especially on your first day back. Pick up a coffee from your favourite café on the way into work, or pack yourself a special lunch. Returning to work doesn’t have to happen with a thud.

If you over-indulged over the break, as we often do, getting active, taking a walk before work or even at lunch, or hitting the gym to start the day will help restart and re-energise your mind as well as your body.

Returning to work after a break is inevitable, so you might as well embrace it and enjoy the fresh start. Every extra day is one day closer to your next break so why not start planning now. We work to live not live to work!

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To err is human, and it is through our mistakes and failures we learn the most, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t strive to make the best decisions we can.

Effective decision-making can be developed, just like every other business or personal skill, and the ability to make consistently sound choices will set you apart regardless of your role or level, whether you are paid or a volunteer.

Using a few simple strategies, you can improve your problem-solving skills and minimise the chances of making a less than ideal decision. And when you do, you can live with the consequences, whatever they may be.

Think 100 times before you take a decision, but once that decision is taken, stand by it as one man.”

– Muhammad Ali Jinnah

Don’t procrastinateIf a decision is particularly tough, it can be tempting to put it off on the basis you need time to think it over, or at least that is the story you tell yourself. It’s true that it may take some time to research and review to make difficult decisions well, but delaying unnecessarily is not helpful. Consider the pros and cons, make a list if that helps, forecast the consequences and then act.

Don’t make it personal Ego driven and emotional decisions are rarely good ones. Being personally invested can and will cloud your judgement. Objectivity is more important than personal gain when it comes to good decision making.

Get a second opinion – You are not the first person to face this kind of situation, and you probably won’t be the last. Why not ask someone more experienced and learn from their mistakes instead of making your own? If you need help, don’t hesitate to ask. Being self-aware and seeking advice makes you stronger, not vulnerable.

Check your facts – When it comes to collecting information to make a decision, it’s unlikely you will ever get the complete picture, which is ok. Your aim is to make the best decision based on the information that is available to you, so the key is to make sure the data you use is the best it can be. Seek feedback from stakeholders where appropriate, and consult tried and trusted sources if you want your end results to improve.

Anticipate the worst – Expect the best possible result. We never plan to fail, but consider the consequences of the worst case scenario as a result of your decision. If you can live with that, then the risk is acceptable. If you can’t, you may need to start at the beginning and review where you can make changes.

“Fall seven times and stand up eight.”

– Japanese Proverb

Some decisions will always be made at gut instinct level, and some of the time they will be right. There will always be a place for these kind of judgements, especially when an immediate response is required. In fact, sometimes gut instinct is all you have. However the risk in these situations are higher. Collecting information and reviewing the options and consequences in a clear and structured manner in a sound framework will always be safer and more consistent.

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Lawyer on his workplaceJob interviews! If you have been to at least one, you know that the experience can be quite tense and can bring out exactly those aspects of our personality that we would prefer not to show to our prospective boss. However, bear in mind that job interviews can be stressful, intimidating and awkward not only for the applicant, but also for the interviewer, as this piece helpfully suggests.

What Not to Say

Hundreds of posts around the web will explain in detail what you are expected to say at an interview: when to say it, how to say it, what to say and why to say it. It is also important, however, to know what not to say, because a perfect interview can be spoiled by a single inappropriate utterance. Therefore, always remember how to not lose your cool – be composed, take your time and think before you answer. Nobody will have a bad impression of you if you consider your reply before giving it. On the other hand, if you answer hurriedly with a nonsensical reply, that may well be the end of the interview. As much as you want to be yourself, remember there is a fine line between being yourself as you will behave at your new workplace and being yourself with your closest friends.

So, what not to say? No inappropriate jokes. No embarrassing personal information (think in terms of ‘what would I say on a first date – I don’t want to appear as a loony!’). Not too many personal details – speaking briefly about your hobbies or your life is okay, but giving the exact minute-by-minute details of your day would be a bit too much. And finally, do not mention other companies that have offers for you, other interviews you are going to attend, other opportunities you might take – it is cheap and will always make a bad impression.

What Not to Do

To start with, DO NOT fail the handshake. Many people will form their first impression (even if it is a subconscious one) on your handshake. So grasp firmly and release on time, do not offer a finger, do not slip your hand, do not catch the fingers.

Try not to appear stressed or anxious. Just remember that worrying and being nervous will never help, it will only make it harder for you to focus. Compose yourself and go in; act confident and calmly.

Do not drink alcohol before the interview. As much as you would like some extra help with calming down, they will know, and it will not be of any advantage to you.

Do not do anything strange, weird or awkward during the interview. This includes many of the examples in the piece quoted above – dancing, singing (unless that’s what the interview is for!), applying or taking medicines, eating, leaving and reappearing, leaving without reappearing, performing magic, etc. You are there for an interview and will have to impress the interviewer with your composition, experience, knowledge and manner, not with fooling around.

Finally, do not be aggressive or stubborn. Never threaten the interviewer or anyone in the vicinity. Actually, this is something to keep in mind at all times, not only at job interviews. Take ‘no’ as ‘no’ and leave when you are expected to; do not make it worse by refusing to go or doing something stupid. Remember, it is always better to part with good feelings (you might be the second best candidate and be invited if the first decides not to start), than slamming the door and thus locking it for yourself forever.

To cut a long story short, interviews are not as scary as they appear! The main rule is – “Keep calm and show them they need you.” Remember – the interviewer has probably seen some weird applicants out there, so he or she will be grateful for the lack of embarrassing situations. Good luck!

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