Good Enough

Some years ago, I was at a workshop given by Kim Klein.  Kim has long been a leader in the nonprofit sector, particularly for her work with social justice organizations.  I’ve always admired her. She is smart, funny and right on target.  But of all the good things she said during that 4-hour session, one thing above all stood out. As she was talking about the difficulty of getting things done, she scoffed at the idea that everything needed to be perfect.  “Dare to be mediocre!” she commanded.  “You’ll accomplish a whole lot more.”

It’s a lesson I’m still trying to learn.

I have this uneasy feeling that if I don’t do things the right way—perfectly, in fact—then the entire world is going to crash.  This despite proof to the contrary.  No matter how hard I try, there is always a typo, a misstated fact, the wrong foot put forward.  This week, for example, after I sent out my monthly newsletter (sign up here) I noticed that I somehow messed up the fonts in the last article.  But you know, I don’t think that was the reason 3 people unsubscribed.

A corollary to aspiring to being good enough, is the one that says do not have such thin skin.  When I first started sending out my newsletter, I would obsess about my failures every time someone unsubscribed.  Then I heard Seth Godin talk about permission-based marketing.  He defined it, so I figured he knew what he was talking about.

He reminded me (and the rest of the audience) that the value of permission-based marketing is that you are reaching those who care about what is you are doing, saying, or selling.  Duh!  That was a really liberating thought. While I still don’t like it when people unsubscribe (I’m a sales-type, I want everyone to love me), I know that it is better for both of us if they unsubscribe than simply click “delete” when my newsletter comes into their mailbox.

Okay.  So I’ve just spent a little over 300 words telling you what a neurotic, needy, perfectionist I am.  And I suspect that in your heart of hearts, there are a whole lot of you who relate completely.  Our takeaway from this?  It’s what my mother used to tell me whenever I would rail about what a failure I was because I wasn’t at the top of the heap:  Just do your best.  That’s all that matters.  Or as my Get Grants co-teacher says, “get to Good Enough.”  The rest, she says, is often just procrastination.

Those who have responsibilities for raising funds (to bring it back to the purpose of this blog site) are often masters at this.  They frequently stop themselves from getting charitable gifts because they don’t have a good database or all the research on the prospect, the best brochure, the perfect words to say.  Get over it.  Good enough is…well, good enough.

Talk with passion about your organization and you very well may find that your prospect responding with an equal interest and a desire to be part of what it is you do.  The best fundraising piece I ever saw was a tattered piece of colored paper with a rudimentary crayon drawing done by one of the students at a special needs school.  It spoke volumes to the person who decided it was necessary to endow an arts program there, to make sure that all their students would forever be able to express themselves as artistically as they could.

Serendipity plays a much larger role in my life than I like to admit.  This morning, before I sat down to write this post, I sat in my kitchen, having breakfast and reading the paper.  When I got to the comics page (the real reason I still subscribe) my eye was drawn to the horoscope.  I’m a Pisces, and what it told me was “You’re trying to do a job well, though it’s not as easy as you once thought.  Stop trying to be good at it.  The freedom will liberate you from mental blocks.”

Janet Levine works with nonprofit organizations, helping them to build their resource development capacity.  To learn more about her, her online grantwriting class and Get Ready, Get Set, Get Grants the only grantwriting book you really need, check out  You can buy the book directly at