Getting It Done

We were talking about what we wanted; how we wanted our work and yes, our lives, to be now. “I want,” my friend said, “to act.  Not as in being an actor but as in doing all the things I think I want to do.”

Ah yes.  Moving from thought to action; from hope to accomplishment.  How, in other words, do I get myself off my very own butt?

So much of my work (and my workshops) is (are) focused on just that: Getting it done.  Moving people along that continuum from thinking to planning to action.  It’s that middle connector—planning—that makes the real difference, though there is always the danger that you get stuck on planning (or planning to plan).

There are lots of ways to plan but I think that to be successful you first have to envision what it looks like when you act.  And that visioning needs to be realistic.

For example, I really, really, really want to learn Spanish.  Over the years I’ve taken courses, listened to tapes, spent several weeks in Madrid.  And I actually learned quite a bit (mostly forgotten by now), but not quite as much as I wanted.  Part of the problem was that I had this fantasy that when I finished the tape, the course, the trip I would be fluent. I could have conversations that were more than asking the sales clerk how much I owed for whatever it was I was trying to buy.

The reality, of course, is that it takes years to get fluent.  I needed to be happy with baby steps.  And to keep taking them until I approached fluency.

Fundraising, especially, is like that.  You cannot talk about doing one --or even do that one thing once-- and suddenly be raising 20% of your operating budget.  Raising money, like learning a language, takes a very long time.

So first—where do you really want/need to be by this time next year?  Given your resources is that realistic?  Scale back if you have to; scale up if you can.  Then plan all the steps you need to take to get there.

Now comes the hard part:  What do you truly need to do to achieve success?  I couldn’t just listen to a Spanish tape and honestly believe I would be able to speak to anyone who wasn’t ON that tape when I was done.  To do that, I would have study the grammar, memorize vocabulary, try speaking with others.  To raise money means figuring out who your best prospects are, how will they best be reached (and that won’t be the same way for everyone), how will you approach them and what will you ask them for?

As your plan takes shape, you need to start acting on it.  I needed to spend 30 minutes a night conjugating verbs and memorizing new words.  Go back and review, then add some more verbs and words.  Then find someone to try talking with.

You need to identify your prospects.  Segment them and ascertain who needs a personal call, who else can just get a letter.  Which board member will be the best to make that call and how will you work with him or her to ensure it happens?

In short, getting it (whatever it is) done means making a commitment and then taking that first step.  Then keep putting one foot in front of the other.  Meanwhile, you need to keep checking that you are heading in the right direction.  And that the direction you are heading is still the right one.

Or, as one of my bosses used to say, “Stop talking and start doing,” but do it with clarity and preparation.  And pretty soon you will discover that you are, for real, getting it done.

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, Buy the book at