Envision yourself in a black leather dress

I’m constantly urging nonprofit professionals to get out of their familiar comfort zones.

It’s an issue everyone deals with and struggles to overcome.  But unless you get out of your comfort zone, the reality is that you won’t make breakthroughs in your lives, your careers or even … fundraising.

You simply can’t coast through life if you want to be the best you possible – or if you truly want to change the world.

And yes, this goes for me as well.

I was reminded of this a few weeks ago when I was in NYC with my significant other for the weekend.  I always stop by the wonderful boutique co-owned by his sisters.   Meeting these two lovely ladies has been akin to having a personal stylist.  By now they know my every curve and they know what works and what doesn’t.  Whatever look they send my way – and they have dressed me in clothing ranging from a size 2 to a size 10 – looks utterly smashing and it’s been a relief to put myself in their hands.

Still, when one of the sisters handed a black leather dress over the dressing room door, I said “NO WAY!” I held firm and refused to even try the dress on.

Oh I had my reasons:

“I’ve never worn leather!”  (Okay, shoes don’t count.)

“It’s too short!”

“I’m too old to wear a black leather dress!”

In short, it was simply not me.  But this stubborn little lady insisted that I was not going to leave the dressing room wearing anything but that little black leather dress and so, over my head it went.

Whoa mama!

In this little black leather dress I was transformed from a suburban flip-flop wearing work-at-home mom to a sleek temptress!

It’s hanging in my closet right now, just waiting for the right occasion …

So my little reminder to you – make a list of things you’d like to do and try exploring the creative side, your adventurous side, your romantic side …

Try a food you’ve never tried before.  Take a wine-tasting class.  Join Toastmasters.  Take salsa dancing or a ballroom dancing class.  Ever tried yoga?  What about jumping out of a plane?

And if you’re wondering what this mild rant has to do with nonprofit marketing and development work, do yourself a favor.  Instead of taking yet another pedestrian AFP workshop or reading the latest fundraising tome about the newest tools:

  • try exploring the psychology of persuasion via Kurt W. Mortensen or Robert Cialdini
  • learn from direct marketing gurus like Denny Hatch or Frank Kern or Yanik Silver or Dan Kennedy
  • take an internet marketing seminar or a creative writing workshop
  • spend a day in the field with your program directors
  • answer the phones (trust me, you can learn a great deal – and learn it quickly – by answering an organization’s phones)
  • pay a surprise call on a donor to say thank you
  • challenge yourself to come up with five distinct new stories for your organization
  • challenge yourself to come up with 10 different headlines for your next appeal (you don’t “do” headlines?  Read Caples “Tested Advertising Methods” to learn why you should)

Be bold!  Be fun!  Shake things up!

Good donor communication takes guts.  It takes style. Try some in your personal life and watch it carry over.

8 Responses to “Envision yourself in a black leather dress”

  1. Isn’t it amazing the power of something as simple as a dress to transform your outlook? This is great Pamela, I love it!

    Sometimes I think nonprofits are too conservative for their own good (and by conservative, here I mean avoiding change). But, you can’t grow if you never try anything new. So thanks for the great reminder to shake things up — and I love the suggestions you list!

  2. Fun read, Pam! Thank you for reminding us all to think outside the box. But, where’s the photo of you in the leather? 🙂

  3. Pamela Grow says:

    I’m wearing it to a wedding dinner in a few weeks & will be sure to snap a pic!

  4. Right on, Pam.

    I’d add that working 12 hour days and seven day work weeks doesn’t allow much time for creative outlets. I want fund development staff to do all that you suggest … and watch the latest shows, and read People and Wired magazines (and more), and be in touch with the world around them. I wrote about my own adventures with idea discovery at

    But black leather dress, now that’s a new idea I could stand in line for!!


    P.S. I’m with Lori, can’t wait for the photo.

  5. I love the advice about answering the phone. CEO’s and ED’s should definitely answer the phones from time to time, regardless of how large the organization may be.

  6. Kris Hoots says:

    Nice analogy Pam! Cannot wait to see what our nonprofit clients “try on” this fall fundraising season. Who knows what fun and exciting results might return when they take their versions of the risks like you did.

  7. I definitely cannot relate to the black dress analogy 🙂 , but great principles. The suggestion to answer phones is golden.

  8. Love these suggestions and the leather dress analogy! It’s so difficult to step outside your rut and try to see the world (and yourself) with fresh eyes. But it’s critical to staying invigorated and creative.

    Thanks for the reminder!