Q1: The Key to Your Best Year Ever


iStock_000055941912MediumI’ve spoken with dozens of philanthropy leaders in the first three weeks of 2015. Most entered the New Year running out the gate and are starting to feel overwhelmed. A few are experiencing a sluggish start. But they are equally overwhelmed because they aren’t sure where to begin.

 In my experience, a productive first quarter of the year will lead to a successful, fun, and easier remainder of the year. Feeling behind? The great news is you still have 2 months left in Q1! You can answer these three questions to help you get started.

1. What are my top 3 priorities for 2015? (If you find it hard to pick only three, you can ask my favorite question: If I can only accomplish one thing this year and it was to be my legacy at this organization, what would it be?). I’m not saying you can’t work on the other 4, 7 or 10 things. But now that you know your top priorities determine what steps you can take in Q1 to make sure they happen by Q4. If you want to launch a new grantmaking initiative, you might need to retain a consultant to conduct an environmental scan. If you want to change, expand or eliminate a funding strategy you might want to evaluate it first to assess impact and opportunity. At the very least, create a timeline starting with what you want to accomplish by Q4 and work backward.

2. What is the one thing I can do now that will make everything else easier or unnecessary? In my experience, this often involves delegation: taking the time to hire or train someone today, who can begin taking work off your plate. But it could also mean: firing someone, re-organizing your team, recruiting new board members, investing in coaching or leadership development, etc.

3. What activity consistently takes an obnoxious amount of time and drains energy from me and my team? You know what I’m talking about. It’s that activity that just popped into your head. That thing that you dread doing every year, quarter or month. Identify three ways you can reduce its intensity, or eliminate it entirely. Is your board book 200 pages? Develop a plan to reduce it to 50. Are your proposals cumbersome to read? Streamline them. Yes this will take time, but if you start that project in Q1, by Q4 your staff will consider you their hero. And more importantly, you will free up time and mental energy to accomplish your top priorities.

I guarantee that if you answer – and act upon – these three questions in the next two months, you will reap the rewards in the remainder of the year.


Kris Putnam-Walkerly, MSW, is a nationally recognized philanthropy expert and consultant. Learn more grantmaking tips by listening to her Smart Philanthropy podcast series on iTunes.

© 2015 Kris Putnam-Walkerly. All rights reserved. Permission granted to excerpt or reprint with attribution. 

Kris is a sought after philanthropy advisor, expert and award-winning author. She has helped over 90 foundations and philanthropists strategically allocate and assess over half a billion dollars in grants and gifts.

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