Life, It's a Lot Like Laundry

Life, I often told my daughter as she was growing up, is laundry. Not exciting. Not romantic.  Just something that has to be done, and which, when done, brings a kind of pleasure.  Not just a task completed but the joy of clean clothes.  But I can only appreciate laundry if I understand why I am undertaking this task rather than only focusing on the task itself.

 A student in my on-line grants class ) had a laundry-like epiphany as she was struggling with goals and objectives versus activities.  This is an area that so many of us have a hard time with.

She noted that most people are trained to be task-oriented rather than goal- or objective-oriented. She went on to say, “We write to-do lists with specific tasks in mind rather than thinking about the purpose of accomplishing those tasks.” 

There are tasks we all need to do, such as laundry, cook dinner, write a thank you letter to a donor or call a prospect to set up a meet.  But too often, we don’t necessarily think in terms of the goals and objectives of such tasks: to keep healthy; to increase the retention of a donor; to move another prospect closer to making a gift.

When it comes time to write a goal or objective, people get lost in the tasks (or, as they called in grantwriting activities or methods) rather than focusing on what we hope our outcomes will be.

Particularly, but not exclusively, for fundraising, if we only focus on tasks, we too often assure that our goals are not met.  In fact, too often, we don’t have goals. 

Setting goals—aspirational but attainable goals—should be your first step for any endeavor.  In the setting, don’t forget to consider why this goal would be important.  By now, I think everyone has seen or at least heard about Simon Sinek’s Ted Talk (and if you are the one person who hasn’t, find it here and why it is so important to start with the why (also the title of his book). 

If you don’t know why you are doing something, well, why bother?  On the other hand, if you think that the reason is simply to check a box, get it off your plate, or—to continue with the laundry example—to have clean clothes, you are missing the real point.  Clean clothes are so much more than not-dirty, stinky garments.  They smell nice.  They feel good on my body. 

But it’s not just for us.  It’s so much more pleasant for the people who come in contact with us.  Those of us who have parented pre-adolescent boys have lived through the truth of that!

Janet Levine