I was a fundraiser. And grant writer. And event organizer. And website manager. And copywriter. And marketing director. And budget preparer.

Oh. I shouldn’t forget that I was also a fireman, putting out fires.

All of the above wasn’t at multiple jobs. I did them all in the same job. Multiple roles all rolled up into one job.

Nonprofit small shop life. Amirite?

Small Shop Life

This is a scene from my second alltime favorite movie Airplane (my alltime fav movie is down below):

This is what working in a solo or small shop looks like. You just want to get to your desk, sit down and get your work done. But from every crevice of the universe things pop up. And it’s your job to deal with them quickly and get back to the job you were hired to do.

Way easier said than done.

When it’s just you, you have all the responsibility. And you’re really doing the job of 2-3 people, all for a much lower salary than a comparable job in the for-profit sector. (More on that next week.)

Take small shop fundraisers for example. They have to manage all parts of the organization’s fundraising appeals: The copywriting, storytelling, making the ask, segmenting the donor list,  dealing with printers for direct mail, sending out emails, posting on social media, answering inquiries, making sure thank you letters get sent out in time, calling donors to thank them and a million other things.

Sounds exhausting, right?

It is.

I’ve been in those shoes and know how challenging it is. A Board that demands you raise more and more funds. A boss who drives you nuts. Never enough hours in the day. Weekends spent working instead of recharging.

All of it stinks. It’s frustrating. And it’s one of the reasons why there’s high turnover among fundraisers in our sector.   


Early in my career, when I was feeling the pressures of a small shop job, one of my mentors told me I needed to take more “me time.” But they weren’t just talking about relaxing on a beach with a drink in hand.

They were referring to learning what it takes to become a sector expert, the best I can be. That meant making time to learn more about my profession, study best practices, take classes, attend conferences, pay attention to what the experts were saying and read up on the latest and greatest. 

“Don’t ever be too tired to learn.”

Twenty years later and I can say it’s absolutely been one of the best pieces of advice I ever received.

I believe that each of you should be doing the same thing.

This doesn’t come easy. I know that for many of you, professional development budgets are very small or even nonexistent. But learning how to be better and more efficient at your job should never be an afterthought!

That’s why #AlwaysBeLearning is my favorite hashtag. (#AlwaysBTesting is the other.) I have spent almost two decades in the sector reading, studying, learning, asking questions and looking for answers. I may have acquired a certain amount of knowledge but there’s always room for more. So I make sure that every single day I’m doing something to upgrade my skills and knowhow.

I’ve done that no matter my position: Fundraiser, CEO, global director of communications for a foundation, business solopreneur.

My goal isn’t just to learn but also to share with others. For example, this is why I publish a daily nonprofit newsletter. Many of my subscribers work in small shops. To maximize their time, I deliver to their inboxes articles and posts which will help them learn, grow professionally and implement what they’re learned at work.

Because every day should be a learning opportunity.

You’re Invited!

I invite you to learn with me on January 27 at the “Your 2022 Fundraising Toolkit” event. You’ll learn about the four cornerstones of fundraising:

  • Fundraising copywriting
  • Preparing and making the ask
  • Gratitude, building relationships and retention
  • Creating a strategy with goals you can achieve.

You’ll have a chance to learn from- and ask questions to- four of the top fundraising experts in our sector. They are going to share their knowledge, best practices, expert advice and tips with you.

They’re going to reveal fundraising secrets you’ve been seeking so you can plan a successful 2022, shine at your job and raise more money than you did in 2021. 

Most important: All of the speakers have worked in solo or small shops. They’ve been in your shoes. They understand your challenges. And they’re going to provide you the tools you need to shine at your job and have greater mission impact. 

The cost? Thanks to sponsor event Qgiv, this workshop is affordable for everyone, especially those working in solo or small shops.

Can’t make it on the 27th? Unable to stay for all four sessions? I’ve got your back! All the sessions will be recorded and you’ll have access to the replays at any time you want.

Better yet, post-event you’ll receive from each speaker a tip sheet summarizing what they discussed which you can reference at any time.

Come learn and grow. Do it for you.

P.S. My alltime favorite move? The Wizard of Oz.