Accentuate the Postive

It’s hot and humid—something it rarely is in Los Angeles—and I am in a really cranky mood. I’ve spent too many weekends facilitating really good board retreats where it feels like things are about to take that big step forward, only to find, several weeks later, that it’s all faltered again.

I pride myself on making sure that every meeting ends with action items, and that action items all have both a due date and an owner. And that everyone involved has agreed to the action item.

So why all this widespread inaction?

I’ve been pondering that question. So I decided to revisit the retreats I’ve facilitated over the past few months.

The first thing I discovered is that “widespread inaction” is, really, not true. In fact, the opposite—widespread action—is more accurate. But I have been focusing on what hasn’t happened instead of celebrating what has.

The second thing I realized is that often what looks like inaction is really teeny tiny baby steps—and comparing where they had been where with where they are headed and applauding the distance covered is far more revealing than complaining that they aren’t there, yet.

In other words, in fundraising, governance, nonprofit activity et al, as with everything else in life, accentuating the positive is at least as accurate as focusing on the negative—and far more beneficial.

I’m always telling the Executive Directors with whom I work that they must—on a regular basis—thank their board members, even or perhaps especially those who have done nothing spectacular, for what they do. And to find extraordinary things that these board members have accomplished.

Extraordinary simply means unusual. Different from the norm.

Extraordinary starts with the Executive looking for positive actions rather than harping on negative or nonexistent ones. From that activity, you will find some amazing things.


Janet Levine works with nonprofits, helping them to increase fundraising capacity. Learn more at



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 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.
This entry was posted in fundraising and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s