Here's What You Missed – Thriving in a Small Shop is a Balancing Act

dancers in balanced pyramidFebruary Educational Breakfast: Build Your Team and Involve Them

Just as real estate’s motto is “location, location, location” it would seem a good motto for the small shop should be  “balance, balance, balance.” 

This panel discussion was moderated by Amalia Schoone CFRE, of In Progress Consulting and featured Nancy Clarkin, Development Director at First Stage Milwaukee, Ellen Phillips CFRE, President of WCTC Foundation and Dan Taivalkoski, Executive Director of Racine County Food Bank.   The panelists, coming from shops ranging from a small development office to basically one person wearing multiple hats, gave those present some real-world experience and advice to take back to our small shops.

A robust question and answer period revealed many different kinds of balance to help us thrive in a small shop like 1) continually prioritize (“If everything is important, then nothing is important”), 2) get to know your board and give them the tools to help you, 3) use your Strategic Plan as your guide,  4) use technology to help you; from calendars to email marketing like MailChimp and sign-up platforms like Sign-Up Genius to online auction software like One Cause, 5) build your capacity by outsourcing work to consultants, temporary staff and volunteers, and using AFP Connect, and 5) take care of you; let go of a quest for perfection. Answering the question of what keeps you up at night, panelists all spoke at some level about did I do enough, led to the final question of the morning, how do you get over the guilt of not doing enough?  Panelists advised us to share our concerns with someone like our boss or board president, continue to prioritize and remember to keep space in your help for self-care. Nancy Clarkin offered a tip to put into action right away; before leaving for the day, take a few minutes to write down 5 things that need to be done tomorrow.  Use posts-its so that when that task is done you can rip up the post-it in celebration.

Building relationships was also an important point made by all panelists.  Get out from behind your desk and build a relationship with your donors, of course, but also keep building networks with volunteers, colleagues, and board members to help you achieve. Small shops are challenging.  For some of us, our shelf isn’t large enough to hold all the hats that we must wear every day.  But with a network, we can share some of our hats and get the job done.

Thank you to Nancy Herro, Executive Director, Civic Music MKE, for drafting this month's recap article.

Have a topic idea for future professional development opportunities?  Contact Julie Cordero from the AFPSEWI Education Committee at