New Looks

I feel churlish complaining about 7 weeks in London.  It’s a wonderful city—but I’ve been here several times, most recently two years ago  And there are so many other places I’d love to see.  I come here—or to Paris, Madrid, Rome—for up to 7 weeks during the summers because my husband teaches an overseas summer session.  He’s done so most summers for about 17 years.  Last trip, he vowed it would be the last.  He’s remade his vow this trip. It’s not that I hate this.  It can be a lot of fun  But it’s both too long and too short a trip.  Too long in that our housing—even when not horrid—is not generally comfortable—comfortable as in my own home.  Work, for me, is difficult and as a consultant, I really cannot afford to take almost two months off.  And, after the first visit, we’ve done all the sights, walked all over the city, and been to most of the outskirts.  After that, it just becomes business as usual.  We live here—and yet not.  Which is where the too short comes in.  We tend to stop exploring and go back (and back and back) to the same old places; doing the same old things.  For some odd reason, there doesn’t seem to be enough time to find new stuff.

But of course, I’ve not brought this up just to complain.  What happens to me on this trips is what, I think, happens to most people at their jobs.  At the beginning, we listen, we learn, we seek out information   We are excited by the prospects, and challenged by the problems.  Then, after a time, we think we know our workplace—its foibles and strengths, and somehow we stop looking and listening and simply do whatever it is we do.

In small development offices, this can be devastating.  There is never enough time to do all that is required, and we tend to get stuck doing what was pressing when we started.  It may still be critical, but we have ceased to look and understand what might be more imperative.  So we write our grants, work on the newsletter, deal with the minutiae of the gala—and ignore the personal relationships with our prospects and donors that would, in time, yield far greater riches.  Worst of all, we don’t see what is sometimes right in front of us.

Yesterday, for example, as we walked somewhat desultorily around Camden Locks, we wandered down a staircase we had never—in the dozens of times we’ve been here—noticed.  It took us down several flights, to an interesting tea shop and – yes – more of the same shopping stalls.  But it was quieter here, and the ambience a bit different.  And it made us both start thinking about Camden Locks and why keep returning (the food on the weekends; the reminders of our youth).

On one of my client calls last week, the development director excitedly told me that the “homework” I had given her to review (YES! AGAIN!) her donor list and look for changes in giving patterns had revealed three people who had suddenly increased the size of their annual gift.  Best of all, she had a solid appointment with one, was working on a date with a second, and was trying to figure out how to connect with the third.  What was most exciting for me was her clear excitement.  For months she had been kind of depressed about her job.  She’d been doing it for several years, and felt that she had hit the wall, finally and irrevocably.  Today she is seeing things a bit differently, and understanding that there is more to do, more challenges to meet.

Ummm, I should take my own advice.  It’s a big city out there.  Surely there are areas that are still left to be explored.


Janet Levine works with nonprofit organizations, helping them to increase their fundraising, look differently at what they do, and make the world a better place.  Learn more at  While there, sign up for the monthly newsletter.