Resolution: Fix it Before it Breaks

January 15, 2018



Written By: Lora

By Lora Dow

This January, the DBD Team is making resolutions to help us be better. Today Lora suggests that maybe we should resolve to fix things before they break.  

So much of fundraising work is cyclical. Annual campaigns, events, United Way campaigns, etc. all combine to give our yearly calendar a rhythm and sense of expectation. Rarely do nonprofit leaders find themselves with extra time on their hands, so it becomes very easy to take last year’s plan and polish it up for the new year. Why fix something that’s not broken?

Some of us on the Donor By Design team are known to enjoy breaking things.* We get bored easily and after doing a program or a report the same way a couple of times, we get the itch to “break it”… although we’d probably call it “innovation.”

Maybe there’s a happy medium between the two. What if we resolved to “fix it before it breaks?”

When we have a chance to do something for the third (or thirtieth) time, it’s a chance to make it better. We can:

  • Ask the newest person on the team (volunteer or staff) to look at a report or communication piece and give us feedback on what’s not clear or compelling.
  • Poll the participants of an event months after (or before) to gauge the impact you’ve had in the past or test ideas for the future.
  • Do the big idea that seemed too big the first time you tried it. You’re better now, more experienced. Perhaps it’s time to be audacious?
  • Conduct a success post-mortem. Often, we dig deep to figure out where something went wrong. But can we do the same thing to figure out why something went right?
  • Change the parameters. Copying last year’s schedule, budget, plan will get you something that looks remarkably like what you’ve done before. What could you do with twice the money, or half? If you had to pull this off in two weeks, what would you keep and what would you discard? Hopefully you don’t have to change your parameters this drastically, but the questions will challenge you to think differently about something with which you’re very familiar.
  • Run everything through the “does it really matter” filter. Every meeting, memo or moment at an event should be questioned to see if it really helps. Does it still have an impact? Did it ever? If not, scratch it to make room for something better.

Resolve this year to take one of your responsibilities and fix it before it breaks. Whether that’s what you write in your thank you notes or how you run your board meetings or the agenda for your biggest event of the year — see what you can “break”. It can always be better, and making it so will make you better too.



* Not naming any names but they might rhyme with Spruce and Nora…

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

3 responses to “Resolution: Fix it Before it Breaks”

  1. John Alexander says:

    Excellent observations, Lora…thank you!!

  2. Bruce Bruce Berglund says:

    Great advice!