With a Child's Mind

It wasn’t a bad workshop.  In fact, most of the evaluations were quite good.  But the group was too quiet; not enough people asked questions.  And, I had to rush through the last part of my presentation. Generally, I’m pretty on target with how much information to present, but as I’ve did  more and more workshops, I was finding myself cramming more and more information into each session.   That, as I’ve been reminded on almost ever page in Garr Reynolds truly good book Presentation Zen, is not the best approach.  Sometimes, less truly is more.

Above all, Reynolds reminded me of the main thing I should be considering:  “What is my absolutely central point?”  What is the one thing that I want to make sure my audience remembers?

It’s the question we should all be considering now just when we prepare workshops but when we prepare collateral materials for various campaigns and initiatives; solicitations letters; newsletter articles, writing grants, and yes, face to face meetings.

What it is we want our prospects to learn about us? What do they need to know about our organization so they will want to be connected to us?

Too often, nonprofits focus on telling the world about how they go about their work.  Our mission and vision statements concentrate on activities we perform.  We should, rather, be talking about the results we achieve. And we should be explaining what happens if we aren’t there to ensure these results are realized.

Reynolds also talks about simplicity, clarity and brevity—the Zen in Presentation Zen.  “Zen teachings,” he writes, “often speak of the ‘beginner’s mind’ or ‘child’s mind.’”

Throw out everything you know and approach your organization with a fresh eye.  Look at what you do—and what that means for those you work with and for.  Get rid of all that extraneous information.  In short, ask yourself:  “What is our essence?”  What is the most important thing about us?  How does this thing single us out from the crowd?

Stop!  Make sure that you are not focusing on your methods.  That’s how you get there—and while important, it’s not generally what will get someone’s interest.  Look at your clients or your cause.  What is it that makes a difference for them or it, and, ultimately, us?  Facts are great, but rather, tell me a story (ok, that’s becoming a tedious cliché, but let me see how what you do has a concrete affect).  Bring me inside who you are and show me how I will be different by interacting with you.  Yes, that old “what’s in it for me.”  But it matters.

How will you know that?  Well, what’s in it for YOU?  How are you different because of your involvement?  Share that with me, and let me see if I think that shoe will fit.


Janet Levine is a consultant who works with nonprofit and educational organizations to increase their fundraising capacity. She is also the co-author of Get Ready, Get Set, Get Grants, a comprehensive guide to writing winning proposals. Learn more about Janet at her website, http://janetlevineconsulting.com. Buy the book at http://tinyurl.com/2996pqg