For many years, long before I worked in a tech company, or before I knew about marketing attribution or what “MarTech” meant, my career was in the nonprofit realm. I held many different positions from the age of 18 to 32, in roles that took me from the suburbs to downtown. I have lived in Spain and the UK. Kenya, Chile and Mexico were cool places I got to visit, all serving the greater good. On several occasions throughout my tenure, I have felt a deep sense of satisfaction about my contributions. Other times I was emotionally removed from the lives I was meant to impact. These ups and downs are all part of the job and vary depending on the type of work you do. When it comes to nonprofit work, there are ultimately two big “death and taxes” truisms: Nonprofit isn't about the money. Also, nonprofit is all about the money. Hell, if you're in this line of work (I still can't bring myself to call it an “industry”), then you probably think about money every day. Everyday life and the question of time well spent You got into this job because you wanted to help people, and that's really cool of you.
But if you're anything like me, you've worked your way through your days with the Grim Reaper of cash flow following you at all times. Here's how it usually goes: God, I really need to raise some money or we'll be in trouble I'm going to employee email database set aside a whole day in two weeks to focus on this! I'm going to write a big, long email and make it look good! [The blocked day for fundraising arrives] Alright! I am ready to do this. I have my cafe and my email campaign editor in place. And I have story ideas to share with our donors! A member of your team asks you about an urgent work-related issue that you are really there for. You dutifully extinguished the fire. Back to work! Ah, it's time for a lunch date to meet a potential intern for next year. Repeat steps 3 and 4 until it's almost the end of the day, then leave without completing more than 20% of what you planned. Leave the office, sad and dejected.
Now, this situation can apply to just about anyone who has a degree of autonomy in their daily schedule. But the worst part of the experience is this: no one got any value out of it. You haven't raised money and your donors haven't heard how their contributions are making a difference. No new people have had the opportunity to hear what your organization does and why it matters, or how it can partner with you. Despite the great plan you laid out at the start of the day, you simply got nothing in return and no value was delivered to anyone. It's a shame, because it doesn't have to be that way. Succeeding in the big things means focusing on the little things It was already too late when I learned a valuable lesson that has changed my life, which has shaped my career ever since: it is better to deliver a very small thing of value than to deliver nothing at all.