Scrambled Brains – Time for Back-to-Basics

Since the start of the new year I’ve had so much on my plate that I’ve been feeling like that frog my science teacher made me kill in junior high school.

You remember those days.

Each student was given a long needle and we were told to stick it in a certain area of the frog’s head and “scramble the brains.”  According to my science teacher, this was a relatively painless way to go.

Of course I was rather squeamish about the “scrambling” part and my frog hopped off across the room with a 2” needle sticking out of his head.

With multiple projects facing me, lately I’ve been feeling like my own brain was rather scrambled.  While women are, by nature, multi-taskers and that can be an absolutely wonderful thing – and it can also be a disadvantage when you really need to focus.

Anyone who’s worked in nonprofit development in a one-person shop knows it’s a tough job.

You’ve got:

  • grant proposal deadlines
  • that board report to finish
  • your database upgrade
  • a website that hasn’t been updated in two years
  • thank you letters to write
  • an event in three months that you haven’t even begun to tackle

… not to mention an utter lack of institutional memory, the “free” mindset prevalent of nonprofit organizations and blah blah blah …

With so much to do, and usually little by way of time or resources, one way to get back to basics is by focusing on those core things that will bring your organization the most value.

Remember the Pareto principle (also known as the 80-20 rule)?  It states that 20% of your activities are responsible for 80% of your results.  The question is which 20%.


Your highest value “20%” boils down to telling your organization’s story.

Think about it.

Your story is the glue holding every grant proposal together.

Your story provides the basis for your individual giving.

Your story is what writes your website copy.

Your story isn’t your mission statement.  It’s not the 937 high school students you serve.

Your story isn’t even “The Story,” for you’ll never have just one.

So, before you try to make sense of all that’s on your plate, think about how you can better communicate your message.  This isn’t something that needs to be made more complex than it really is.  You don’t need to take a “storytelling” seminar or learn a lot of jargon.

You really only need to do one thing.


Every day.

As marketing legend Dan Kennedy always said:  “Let them say it for you!”

For more on this topic read 6 Tips for Collecting Great Nonprofit Stories.

3 Responses to “Scrambled Brains – Time for Back-to-Basics”

  1. So helpful!

    Remembering why we do what we do is so helpful to focus and get things done!!

    Thanks for the encouraging reminder.

  2. Xan says:

    Add an Executive Director who does not believe that the Development Director needs to actually be in charge all the development stuff, until the intern that she’s handed it off to screws it up. Otherwise, you nailed it.

  3. Akharbs says:

    Thanks for this. This is pretty much my mantra. So few organizations realize that communications and fundraising go hand in hand. While I understand the heavy investment in fund raisers, you need strong messaging and storytelling to make a compelling case for your work, and to really help make your development staff’s job more effective.