Since mid-July, I’ve been counting steps. (The idea is to log 10,000 steps each day.) I started during vacation, when we tend to walk a lot. Then I decided to keep going. I downloaded a little app to my phone and carry it with me. During the day, I can check in to see where I am in relation to my goal.
It’s been a pretty easy way for me to push myself to move a bit more. Looking a bit shy of the goal? I walk a little more. Almost there? Well, there’s still time, let’s see if I can get another 1,000 today. Unfortunately, I’m a skilled procrastinator. So constant motivation and bite-sized pieces of effort seem to work for me when weekly or monthly goals do not.
Why am I telling you this? Well, it seems like I might be on to something. And that’s where it might matter to you.
The progress principle – and you.
Have you heard of something called “the progress principle”? I hadn’t, but here’s the scoop.
…of all the things that can boost emotions, motivation, and perceptions during a workday, the single most important is making progress in meaningful work. And the more frequently people experience that sense of progress, the more likely they are to be creatively productive in the long run. Whether they are trying to solve a major scientific mystery or simply produce a high-quality product or service, everyday progress—even a small win—can make all the difference in how they feel and perform.
So. Lots of smaller wins keep you creative and motivated. Just what we need at this time of year, right?
Even better, in a Forbes article, they connect their “progress principle” to our work. They recognize the intangible advantage we have – there’s an emotional satisfaction that comes from helping people. That’s often very motivating!
But they note:
In spite of this, it is often easy to lose the connection between the day-to-day work of an organization and its overall mission. So, leaders must make sure that employees understand how what they do contributes to that mission, and make it clear to them that those contributions are important. One way to help promote this connection is suggested by the research of Adam Grant and his colleagues. They have shown that workers’ motivation is increased if they can have some direct contact with people who have benefited from the services they provide.
That makes perfect sense, right? When you’re feeling unmotivated, the best thing you can do is reconnect with your mission.
Counting down to year end – do something!
As of today, there are about 60 work days until year end. This is our busiest season. I hope you’ve already got your fundraising mapped out through that date. But I want to encourage you to add just a little to that plan, every day. Because small steps can add up to a more successful program in the long run.
It helps to have a goal, of course. I track my walking goal daily, but my real goal is feeling better and maybe feeling more comfortable in my jeans. Not world-changing, but meaningful to me.
I’m sure you have dollar goals. Maybe broken out into daily or weekly targets. Those are pretty easily measured, but not as easily controlled. (If you know how to guarantee you’ll raise a certain amount by a certain date, I definitely want to hear about it!)
But think about more than that. Stay focused on the larger goal – your mission. Why are you raising this money? What will change if you succeed? What will happen if you don’t?
And what about retention goals? Those go beyond the immediate dollars. Using the increased communication you’ve probably got planned for the next few months as a means toward bringing donors closer to the work they make possible will pay off now – and later.
Once you’re clear about what you want, you can add a few more steps. Find small, easily accomplished goals every day between now and year-end. Here are some ideas:
- Talk to your program staff and find a new story.
- Send a handwritten thank you note.
- Rewrite your thank you letters.
- Videotape an interview with someone your organization helps.
- Interview a donor.
- Call a donor just to say thanks.
- Write a new appeal draft. Or write it again.
- Update your database. Make sure you’ve got names right.
- Check your numbers against your goal so you know where you stand.
- Read an article on an area of fundraising you want to know more about.
- Begin a new welcome email series or a mail welcome pack.
You get the idea. Promise yourself that you’ll take one step every day. One step to bring you closer to your donors and to your mission.
So what about you? Please tell me what your plans are for the rest of the year. What are you doing every day to make this the best year-end ever?