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Three Books to Add to Your List!
Submitted by csmith on 2012-09-24T17:22:13
I’d like to share three very important books for professional development today. I’m recommending these books because I believe all three will help you make the most of your time, your talent and your professional relationships.
Getting Things Done, by David Allen
The biggest takeaway that I got from this book is that you need to release your brain from certain tasks in order to be more efficient. The key to my work happiness is less stress, as it is for most other people. The questions that keep me up at night are, “Did I get back to people in a timely manner?” and “Did I accomplish everything that I could have?” These mental queries are the stuff from which nightmares are born.
The cornerstone of this book is the weekly review, which is a great help for my email queue. Most professionals have hundreds and hundreds of emails a day. I have developed a system that helps me know that I’m getting back to people in a timely manner by coding them as “to do weekly” or “to do monthly.” Previously, I would leave things that still had to get done in my inbox, so I would have thousands and thousands of emails in it. Some of them didn’t require a response for at least a month, for example, a CEO telling me in January that they could come to an event in May. I’d need to circle back to them in a month, so I would code that as a “to do monthly,” then archive it. This way my brain knows that I will come back to it, and I can release that mental energy to focus on other things.
I also have a “to-do weekly” box. When I write back to a sponsor to schedule a meeting he requested, I code that as a “to-do weekly,” because I know every Friday I’ll go through that bucket of emails. And if he hasn’t written back, I’ll email, “Just a quick reminder that I’m waiting to hear about X.” What’s also great about this system is that the emails are color-coded in red and yellow. Red is a “to-do weekly,” which really stands out for me. When a sponsor writes back and is coded as a “to-do weekly”, my eye immediately lands on that email when I’m scanning my inbox, so I’m more likely to respond because I know it’s more urgent. Yellow is a “to-do monthly,” which is not as urgent but still as important. One of my daily goals is to leave every night with a clear inbox.
We’re a google shop. Gmail allows you to archive and label, whereas it’s very hard to clear out your inbox in Outlook. It’s funny to compare my Outlook use at previous jobs, and my current gmail inbox. Thanks to gmail and Getting Things Done, my stress has gone down when it comes to email.
Donor-Centered Fundraising, by Penelope Burk
As a development professional for a nonprofit, this book speaks to me. What I like about this book is that it really puts fundraising into perspective. Everyone always says “fundraising versus friend-raising,” and Donor-Centered Fundraising highlights how you need to treat donors as the valuable people they are, and really look at their first gift as a beginning of a lifelong relationship.
Here are two key lessons I got from Burk’s work.
One is that no matter what amount someone gives your organization, they should be treated like a major donor. I was able to turn a $25 per year donor into a monthly donor because I tried to make her feel just as good as I’d make a $25,000 donor feel. I learned things about different donor levels by asking myself, “If they’re giving a smaller amount, why is that? Is it because we haven’t shared our message correctly?”
The second part of Donor-Centered Fundraising that I really liked is what I call the “You Task.” When I write any type of correspondence, I make sure to circle how many times I write ‘you’ in it so that I know that I’m really talking to a person, not to a dollar amount. A lot of times people are so focused on what a donor is giving, they forget that there’s a person behind the gift. I always try to connect with them on an individual basis. And if they can’t give any more, they should still receive a handwritten note, and a lunch, if possible.
This book really put fundraising into an important context for me, and these two lessons have helped me along my professional journey. Even if you’re not in the fundraising field, there are a lot of different things that you can learn from it. For one, people don’t usually send letters through the mail anymore. We’ve become such a technology-centered society, and that has its pluses and minuses. But sending a handwritten note in the mail shows that you’ve taken time to think about someone specifically, and it’s a great opportunity for you to share your story. This way, people feel more like they’re being reached out to and less like they’re just being asked to give something.
The Back of the Napkin, by Dan Roam
I bring up this last book because I’m a visual thinker. This book has really helped me map out my goals and put them into action. What I like about The Back of the Napkin is that it helps you tailor your message. When you’re writing grants for a corporation or a foundation, you often have a small amount of space to tell your story. The Back of the Napkin helped me visualize where I’m trying to go, which makes my presentation more concrete. It’s an innovative way to figure out how to present in a timely, interesting visual manner.
Using many ideas from this book, i.c.stars has started to produce visual presentations using Prezi, then turning those into YouTube videos. It’s a cost-effective way to communicate to a larger audience, specifically those that might not want to read a lot of text but would be more willing to watch a two-minute video.
I highly recommend all three of these books for any type of business development professional. They will help you greatly in cutting down on time you’re spending on a lot of operational tasks so that you can focus on selling, continue to build the business and reach your revenue goals. At the same time, you will learn to connect with people in a more meaningful way.