New New Year’s Resolutions—Getting Unstuck From Start

In 2009, after my first full year of consulting, I wrote on this blog about David Allen’s book, Getting Things Done. A friend had just given it to me, and I found it full of useful information.  Information that still—9 years later—resonates.

In the book, he talks about how lack of time is not the reason you don’t get things done. Lack of clarity and a definition about what a project really is and who the next-action steps are, are the real culprits. I see this all the time with my clients.

It starts with why they hire me.

They have a problem—typically it is that not enough money is coming in.  They are not meeting their budgetary goals.  That, they believe, is caused by one of the following:

  • Their board doesn’t fundraise
  • Their development director doesn’t do what she needs to do
  • People aren’t giving
  • And did I mention: Their board doesn’t fundraise

Usually, however, the real culprit is the fact that there is no written fundraising plan.  More—there is no clarity about why someone would want to support them.

Sure, the mission is fantastic.  Obviously, they do good work.  But people don’t know about them; they are the best kept secret.

So, some think—we have to market.  That means we can’t fundraise until we have a brochure.  Ads. A video.

And again, we have a lack of clarity.

First—who are you?  Who do you serve and why is that necessary?

Second—who cares?  It’s terrific that you want to provide a better quality of life (whatever that is.  I truly hate when clients and students tell me that is what they do), but if no one but you really cares about that, no one but you will provide funds.

Who cares depends a lot on how you define what you do; how you explain its importance.

In defining the problem you want to solve or the situation you endeavor to change, you must understand what happens if you were not there.

Consider who or what you serve.  If your doors closed tomorrow, how would your clients or your cause be taken care of.  If there are other organizations who could take up the slack, consider what would be lacking.  And be realistic, what might they add that, perhaps, you should consider as part of your mission.

Now look at the good you do.  How can you measure that (and yes, you must measure)?  What difference(s) do you make?  How are things better—if they are better—because you exist.

Sometimes, getting clarity here at the start is the first step of what you need to do.  And here is where a consultant can help.

In my 2009 blogpost, I also wrote about a former staff member who frequently commented that she always felt “stuck on start.” She knew broadly where she wanted to end up, but she couldn’t figure out what that first action step should be.

It’s hard to do for yourself.

One of the things I cherish about consulting is that I have the luxury of stepping back, viewing the big picture and then figuring out how my client needs to address the problem. That is, I clarify for them what the steps should be.

And once we know what that first step is, it is easier to move forward—onward to our goal.


Janet Levine Consulting helps nonprofits go from mired to inspired.  Learn how we can help at  While there, sign up for the newsletter and contact us for a free, 30-minute consultant.


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.
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1 Response to New New Year’s Resolutions—Getting Unstuck From Start

  1. I am also a big fan of GTD. I run my life and my business with a GTD-friendly app called OmniFocus. Here’s to a year of smoothly moving from one “next action” to another.

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