Category Archives: Project Management

EXTRA: 7 Questions: Telecommuting

8-Misconceptions-About-Working-From-Home

Thanks to Daniel Zeevi and DashBurst for this fab graphic.

For this installment of 7 questions, I’m tackling a question that a lot of people seem to have on their minds these days, as costs are rising and quality of life seems to be diminishing. In addition, I know that many of you are young professionals and sometimes juggling home, family and work is a pretty difficult circus act.

Working from home has come under fire a lot in recent years (Marissa Mayer and Yahoo! come to mind), in part because employees are not often held as accountable for their work and productivity. That said, a productive employee is a productive employee, and chances are if they are motivated enough to examine how they can be a better worker, they are motivated enough to make telecommuting work to its greatest advantage.

So without further adieu, the questions:

Read on for the burning questions.

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Devil’s Advocate: Give Failure a Hug

You said it, bro.

You said it, bro.

I was reading an interesting article today on Idealist (via Young Nonprofit Professionals Network, hat tip to Ellen!) about embracing failure. I learned from the article that Engineers Without Borders publishes an annual Failure Report about the various things that didn’t work on their project sites and what they learned from those failures.

I sat at my computer for a full minute taking it in. That, I can honestly say, is organizational awesomeness.

Wouldn’t you love to keep reading? Please do.

Happy Anniversary

Should have killed me

Dear Job,

It’s been an exhausting and often rewarding 6 (8? 20?) years. I know we’ve had disagreements, and I’ve gotten mad at you a lot, but here’s to the future and to accomplishing what we hope to accomplish together. I kinda love you, you know.

As ever, Kylie.

So sometime around today is my 6th anniversary at my job. I’d say time flies when you’re having fun, and truth be told, parts of it have been fun. There have also been grueling, discouraging times and growing pains. But I doubt I would trade it for anything.

Wouldn’t you love to keep reading? Please do.

10 Tips: Spring Cleaning for the Development Office

Clean all the development things

Thanks, of course, to the founder of this meme feast, Hyperbole and a Half.

I love Spring. Aside from the fact that New York Winters last longer than the other seasons f(or at least it seems that way), Spring gives us an excuse for a fresh start. It also gives us a fab impetus for cleaning up our offices, both literally and figuratively. Here are 10 ideas for Spring Cleaning, Development Style:

  1. Review your donor management software, and eliminate and merge any duplicates that you find.
  2. Freshen up your conventional donor thank-you ideas. Usually send a letter? Send a picture postcard instead, or make a phone call. Make a list of new ideas that you can use to say thank-you.
  3. If you’re fortunate enough to work with a staff, hold a meeting with them to talk about new initiatives for the development department.
  4. Sort and weed out your stacks of fundraising periodicals. Tired of paper pile-ups? Many development publications, including FundRaising Success, The Chronicle of Philanthropy, and AFP’s Advancing Philanthropy, are available in digital editions.
  5. Review your donor files and clean out any outdated materials or information that is no longer useful.
  6. Assess what is working and what isn’t with your current systems. Are there training modules you could order from your software providers, or could you lay to rest a “fundraising program” that isn’t cutting the muster and hasn’t been for years? The best systems and events are those that help you reach your goals.
  7. Add a few new decorative items to your office space. Photos of family and friends, pieces of artwork that you like, or motivational quotes are all good additions. If you ask nicely, you might even get permission to paint your office or get a new area rug or office chair.
  8. Take a day to physically clean your space if you don’t do it regularly. Studies have shown that keyboards, desks and phones can be some of the germiest spaces in your office!
  9. How is your filing system working for you? Do you avoid filing items because you dread losing them? An ideal filing system should enable you to file something in less than 30 seconds and retrieve it in less than a minute. There are lots of tips out there for building a great filing system. This tip is time-intensive, but very worth it in the long run.
  10. Spring-clean your self-talk. Feeling discouraged over the grey expanse of winter? Give yourself a pep talk. You’re doing good work for a good cause. Your passion inspires others, and the great part is that you can continue to improve if you choose to!

Do you have any “spring cleaning” development tips?

Don’t Reinvent the Wheel

teamwork2In planning our capital project at the theatre where I work, we are entering new territory. The variety of programs that we are planning, and the spaces in which we will be able to do them, will be multiplying by the time the project is finished.

As arts organizations, we are mission-driven to provide artistic and cultural experiences to our patrons, and often to the community at large, regardless of their age, income level or other factors. Chances are, unless you live in a very tiny town, there are other organizations that are obligated to better the lives of their community as well.

The great part about all of this enrichment and quality of life improvement is that it gives us many opportunities to collaborate. For example, some of the programs that we will be adding are music education and lessons, school programming, independent cinema, and a student theatrical program. Because this is our first foray, as administrators, into this territory, it could potentially be a mountain of work and coordination, and it might take us years to get it right.

Very fortunately for us, there are people in our community who already do these things on a smaller or piecemeal scale. A local teacher who schedules and gives piano lessons is working with us on our music education program. A group of teacher center directors is helping us to determine the best way to introduce programming into our schools. Another organization in our area who does a small amount of independent cinema wants to partner with us to promote their brand and serve a neighboring community. Our student theatrical program will be directed by a woman who has worked with various groups of young people in the areas of acting, creative movement and performance.

There is no need for us to reinvent the wheel, and learn from scratch skills and aptitudes that others have spent many years developing. Make a list of your ideas, and ask yourself who can help. If you are starting a new initiative, chances are that there is someone in your community that could lend advice, expertise or experience to your efforts. The time that you spend seeking them out will be a great investment in your future. Working together not only makes your projects more fundable, but it keeps you from duplicating services and splitting your audience with a more established program at another venue.

Have you had good experiences partnering with others in your community? Feel free to share them with us!

The Plague of the Over-Informed

Artwork by Dante Terzigni. Check out his work at  http://danteterzigni.com/

Artwork by Dante Terzigni. Check out his work at http://danteterzigni.com/

I have a confession to make: I’m an information hoarder. As a naturally analytical person whose confidence in my abilities waxes and wanes, information-gathering is a security blanket for me. If I am afraid of attacking something, I look up information on how other people do it, to make sure I’m heading in the right direction.

With my scientific background (my degree is in geology—go figure), the siren call of locking myself in a room and conducting research by myself without having to communicate with anyone is sometimes pretty tempting. However, too much information-collecting can be hazardous to my productive health. If I know that I can take the placebo of doing something instead of doing the right thing, on my most unsure days I would rather wrap myself in the blanket of research. The flip side of my addiction is that, if I get too much information, I scare myself all over again and become inert with indecision. Bad news, right?

My agreement with myself is this: if I am a good girl, and accomplish the finite list of to-dos that can possibly be accomplished, I will allow myself time for research. If a project demands research, I will give myself parameters (e.g. only the first page of Google results; three pages of draft fodder from other sources; five document downloads) to make sure I don’t get carried away. These guidelines keep the ratio of static information to action more manageable and allows me to stay productive, despite any uncertainty I might be feeling.

Do you have any tactics to deal with information overload? I know I’m not the only one who has this issue, and comments are always encouraged!

Magic Monday: A Kanban Plan

“Magic Monday” posts help you start the week off right. Monday is a great day to review and regroup; if you set your mind to it, you can make this your best week yet. Thank gosh it’s Monday!

400px-Simple-kanban-board-

Simple Kanban board image courtesy of Wikipedia. http://tinyurl.com/ajvrzzx

Even if you are in a one-person development shop, chances are you are often called upon to collaborate with others on projects with many components in varying states of completion. Teams often juggle with their ability to track these tasks in a clear way that everyone can view at any time.

One tool for managing these tasks and their progress is the Kanban. Originally developed as a card system for manufacturing by Taiichi Ohno at Toyota, and used heavily by software design teams, a basic kanban board is simple to implement in your own office. It provides immediate clarity in a glance at the current status of your projects, personally or in a team setting.

Read on to get started…