Can You Keep it Simpl(er)?

Sometimes, our organizations' efforts don’t need to be quite as complicated as we’ve made them. Can you keep things simple, or simpler?

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Sometimes, our organizations’ efforts don’t need to be quite as complicated as we’ve made them. Can you keep things simple, or simpler? Especially as we pass the one year mark in our global pandemic?

How much is too much of a good thing?

In nearly 18 years of consulting with nonprofit organizations, and nearly 30 years in the field, I’ve seen myriad working styles. Some people and organizations go by a a “let’s throw the spaghetti on the wall and see what sticks” ethos, trying out new ideas until they find something that works better than the last thing. Other organizations will barely make a move before analyzing every possible pro, con, and anticipated outcome and weighing whether or not the proposed endeavor is worth it. Some organizations live by their (many, many) spreadsheets; others write their plans on the back of a napkin, or not at all.

It’s easier to tell when we haven’t planned enough. How do we know when we’ve planned, researched, and strategized too much? And is “too much” even a thing?

It’s Not the Before Times

There’s one curveball in the “is it too much” question right now. We’ve been in this pandemic for over a year. We are tired. We are overwhelmed. We are sick of our Zoom calls. Lots of us are developing what I call Pandemic Brain – a sort of fogginess or sluggishness that is a result of everything we’re experiencing. Nonprofit organizations often worry about overwhelming their donors, but they don’t worry as much about overwhelming themselves. Most people are not operating at peak performance right now, and most organizations have added stresses heaped upon them, whether that’s with clients who are suffering, donated dollars that are not coming in like they used to, or employees that are dealing with stress and anxiety in their personal lives.

It’s time to ask ourselves is we can keep it simple, or simpler.

Questions to help you keep it simple

While every situation and organization is different, I believe there are a few questions we can ask ourselves to try to simplify things in our fundraising (and overall organizational) operations. These include:

  • Can we streamline our options for now? (e.g. Do we need to send out three versions of this email, or can we send one? Do we need to offer five levels of donor benefits, or can we offer two?)
  • Can we make this decision before we get off this Zoom meeting?
  • Can we decide this via phone, or does it have to be a Zoom? (Zoom fatigue is real, and it’s taking a toll.)
  • Do we have to write all of this proposal from scratch, or can we pull some language from a previous proposal and update it?
  • How many layers of approvals do we need for this before this message or product is sent out?
  • Is it necessary for this board committee to meet this month?

It’s not about slacking off or being lazy; it’s about conserving your energy and creativity for the things that matter most.

What else is your organization doing to streamline, cut out waste, and make sure you are focusing on the things that really matter?

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