“We do not learn from experience…we learn from reflecting on experience.”
Whew—you did it! You have successfully crossed the finish line of the fiscal year. And if June 30 doesn’t happen to be the end of your organization’s fiscal year, you can still celebrate accomplishing six months of work. Whether you went above and beyond in achieving your metrics or you fell a bit short, celebrate your wins—both large and small. You are doing important work that is nuanced and often unfolds on its own schedule. Taking time to reflect will benefit your work in the long run.
Many studies tout the importance of reflection in retaining learning, building successful business practices, and strengthening emotional intelligence. In this digital age, we often find ourselves on autopilot, putting out the fire of notifications that stream from our computers and phones. Carving out a bit of quiet time to reflect boosts performance; it offers space for us to examine outcomes and an opportunity to make conscious improvements.
Set aside regular time for reflection
Schedule time in your calendar for uninterrupted reflection. You could choose to do this daily, weekly, or monthly—or you could set time aside as checkpoints after completing significant engagement milestones with donors. Whether you choose one or the other—or both—put it on your calendar to ensure it happens.
Ask yourself a set of self-determined questions each time you reflect. Do some research to come up with questions that will best serve you. As you more fully incorporate reflection into your work life, you may find it beneficial to refine or replace some of your questions. Most processes in reflection ask people to think about what happened and how they were feeling; what went well and why; what went poorly and why; and what they might do differently if they found themselves in a similar situation.
Write it down
Keeping a record of your reflections—whether in an elegant leather-bound journal or in a note saved on your phone—ensures that you will remember key points. As you prepare for similar situations—a meeting with the same donor or preparing for an event—you can refer to your reflections for potential best practices. For example, you may have learned from a previous event with your new dean that they appreciate meeting ahead of time to learn about the backgrounds of the potential donors with whom they will strategically engage.
You can also use reflection to chart your professional growth. Sarah Kauss, the founder and CEO of S’well, credits some of her success to keeping a five-year journal, recording her yearly entries for each calendar date on the same page. She is able to easily consult a date to determine what has changed in her personal and professional growth. Or, you could consider using A Seven-Day Cleanse to Refresh Your Perspective as a guide in reflecting on what makes your work meaningful to you.
Think about your why
Any time is a good time to think about why you do the important work of fundraising, but reflecting on your why can be especially validating when you cross a significant threshold—such as the finish line of the fiscal year. Take a moment to relish the impact of the dollars you’ve raised. Because of your work, students can attend college, hospitals can acquire the latest life-saving equipment, researchers can continue their important inquiries, and institutions everywhere gain significant improvements in their infrastructure. More importantly, the work you do in connecting donors to your organization has helped them uncover their philanthropic passions and brought them immeasurable joy.
You can’t chart a course forward without knowing where you are now. Use reflection as the compass to realign your course and keep your work on track—continuing the practice will help you maintain forward momentum in the long run.
The team at Advancement Resources stands ready to walk beside you on your journey in professional development through our public offerings, customized in-house workshops, and individual coaching with our certified coaches.