4 pieces of advice for nonprofits

As I was replying to some very interesting questions from a friend that runs another blog (a REAL blog, one that posts every day!) I found myself compiling some pieces of advice for others in the nonprofit sector. Hope you find these four to be valuable. If so, drop me a line in the comments…

Be very specific about what you want to accomplish (your mission), and focus on it obsessively. You will be approached with opportunities that look like shining objects. Evaluate them vs. your mission: if it’s not a good match, feel empowered to say NO to them. Otherwise you will find yourself down the road wondering why on earth you are doing X or Y program.

As part of your efforts to focus, consider in a selfless way if the mission you wish to accomplish may be best served by an existing group. Feel confident enough to approach others with the thought of joining their ranks, for the greater good, bringing your focus and passion to a platform that may help you bring it to another level. Alternatively, consider fiscal sponsorship as a mechanism to bring your mission to life, without taking on the complexities underlying running a full-on 501(c)(3) organization.

When it comes to funding, you need to think about it. There’s no getting around it. You need to balance the passion that drives your mission and makes you wake up every day, ready to take on the world, with the business savvy to know that you need financial support to keep that effort going for as long as it’s needed (which in the case of diabetes nonprofits, seems like it’s going to be a while!)

Make sure you don’t put all your eggs in one basket, whether it is a corporate sponsor, a big foundation, or a donor. You need to strategically diversify the sources of funding for your work.

Pay close attention to the signals around you. The signals may come in the form of trends in your sector (some of the things I described earlier), and outside of your space (the direction of the economy, government policies, national or global statistics, how a particular category of companies is performing, etc.) These will help shape your strategy and help make sure that the approaches you take to keep your mission going strong are consistent with the realities that surround you.

Be willing to let go. It’s very easy to become attached to things you used to do, or the way you used to do them. Once you focus, diversify, and listen, it follows that things will change: you will find there are things you need to stop doing because they are outside of your focus (mission), things you may have to stop doing because you cannot afford them (funding), and things that it makes no more sense to do (or to do the same way) because the conditions that existed when you first started doing them have chanted (listening).

Be brave and learn to let go… it will liberate you and you will be able to do better what you do best.

A big hairy goal for 2014

Now playing: “Miss mundo astro.dita 69” by Masseratti 2lts (2006)

2013 is almost over. It has been packed with many good news:

  • At home: having come to the USA in 2000, and become a permanent resident in 2007, we finally applied for our US citizenship in the second half the year. We will likely become citizens in the first few months of 2014. Andreina continues to inspiring so many with her art, and Santiago (10) is about to finish Elementary School.
  • At DHF: the summer lit a spark of hope and determination in many of us, diabetes advocates. This passion is serving as a driver, pushing us to do more to make the voice of people touched by diabetes heard louder, and earning us the support of the Helmsley Trust for the third year in a row.
  • Overall, I have managed to accomplish more through adopting The Secret Weapon, as a Getting Things Done (GTD) approach via Evernote (thanks to @CorinnaCornejo).

However, there have also been tough moments:

  • My mom’s Alzheimer’s has continued to evolve. In April, we moved her to a Memory Care facility, and new challenges involved with her care and with the increasing costs associated with it have reared their ugly and ever-present heads.
  • While I am well aware that it could be much worse, by early December my HbA1c (an indirect measure of blood sugar averages in the past 3 months) had reached 7.7, the highest it’s  been since I got diagnosed with diabetes.

As I sit here, I realize my focus has been so much on the outside (my passion in advocacy, my mom’s new “normal”), that I have overlooked some basic practices involving my diabetes care and my mental hygiene, leading to the place I find myself in now… and one I am determined to do something about in 2014 and beyond.

I need to take care of myself and my family first. Sounds like a fairly simple thought, but one that I need to make central in 2014:

  • I met with my new endocrinologist at Kaiser a couple of weeks ago and what I need to do was so obvious: be more mindful, slow down… I used MySugr, logging EVERYTHING for just one week and was able to spot so many basics I was paying attention to, correct them and see the difference.
  • In line with slowing down too, I decided to trim down my time on social media significantly, accompanied with following fewer people on Twitter and Facebook (I have already not getting any FB notifications for nearly a year, and it’s freed up so much time).
  • I found myself trying to get TOO much done, reaching #ZeroInbox quite frequently at the expense of nearly 1,000 Things (no exaggeration) that made their way to my Evernote. I am working towards having less than half of that by the end of January: focus on fewer things, saying “no” or “not now” more often.

What am I going to do with the time I carve?

  • Play more (my son got us Rumikub for Christmas) with my family, go to concerts and games, and spend time outdoors with my them. Plenty to do in the Bay Area!
  • Less time on the phonein a recent visit to New York, with my buddy Peter Nerothin, we managed to survive without using our smartphones a single time!
  • Read more books: it can be books on Kindle, but books… not just tweets, Facebook updates or blogs. It takes more time and perseverance.
  • Possibly start a book: who knows? If I don’t spend the first 20-30 minutes of my day checking Twitter or email, I can probably get some serious writing done in 2014!