What Works

Every few months I take a long, hard look at the work I’ve been doing and try to see trends; consider what is working, and what is not.  It’s a little like program review, deciding what stays, what grows, what goes.  But it’s more personal.

Now, even someone with a healthy ego knows that it is not all about me (and here, my husband—reading over my shoulder—laughs.  He tells me I always think everything is about me; but I know it’s really about him).  I can be the best consultant in the world and it won’t matter a jot if my client doesn’t implement all our brilliant decisions.  And note, I did write “our brilliant decisions,” because the best consultant in the world knows that it really has to be a team effort.  ME, alone, doesn’t cut it.  Nor, really, doesn’t anything without a plan and a commitment to implement that plan.

As I think about my business, I see clearly that the things I seriously think about, make a plan to accomplish and then take the time and effort to realize the various parts of the plan are, by and large successful.  On the other hand, the things that I think I would like to do and start doing without considering how best to get it done, seem almost always doomed to failure.

Yes. Certainly.  On occasion good things happen without forethought and with minimal effort.  But that is rare.  Usually those starts and stops get stuck pretty early on.

There are, of course, lots of ways not to plan.  So an organization spends a lot of time and effort in putting on a fundraising event.  It is successful—or at the least, it raises more than it costs.  They are delighted.  Elated even.  But they haven’t considered follow up steps.  Indeed, if the money they’ve raised isn’t strictly necessary for ongoing operations, they haven’t even considered what to do with these extra funds. Worst of all, they don’t connect the dots that how that money is spent is tied to a successful follow-up, which would lead to raising more money.  Instead, it’s “Yay! We have more money,” and it is spent on this or that again without planning and suddenly, nothing has substantively changed and the extra money is gone.  Ummm, sounds like when my kids were teenagers.

But enough about everyone else.  Let’s return to me.  As I was saying, I was thinking about my business.

What doesn’t work, I’ve come to realize, are those assignments where my clients think that now they have hired me, they need not do anything else.  In the short term, this can be helpful; but over time—and remember, a consultant should be consulting herself out of a job—if only the consultant knows what to do, things will revert to what it had been.  Change will not take place.

What works is anything I do with passionate, dedicated people.  It doesn’t matter why they decided to work with a consultant, they understand that my job will be to advise, and that their job will be to take the advice and guidance that resonates with them and act on it. 

In nonprofit organizations especially, where we are so used to trying to do more with less, planning your work and then working your plan is critical.  But so is building a team who work together ensure that a plan is created and implementation actually takes place.


Janet Levine works with nonprofits and educational organizations, helping them to increase their fundraising capacity.  Her goal is help create a plan for success and to see that plan implemented.  Learn more at http://janetlevineconsulting.com.  While there sign up for the free monthly newsletter.


About janetlevineconsulting

For over 20 years, Janet Levine has worked for and with nonprofit and educational organizations, helping to grow their advancement programs. Her consulting company, Janet Levine Consulting, serves a wide range of organizations from small, all-volunteer agencies to major national organizations. She regularly teaches courses in non-profit management, fundraising and grant development, both face-to-face and online at http://courses.lmlearningstation.com/. In addition to her nonprofit work, Janet brings years of experience as a business and sales manager in the for-profit sector. She has an MBA from the Graziadio School of Business at Pepperdine University.
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