Posted by & filed under Career Development, Leadership/Management.


Carolyn Hawthorn

Business Development Officer, Harbourfront Centre

It might be just me but I don’t think there are enough hours in the day. As professionals the expectation is that you always deliver your best at work. Ensuring you’re on the top of your game means understanding that the nonprofit sector is increasingly influenced by outside trends. Fundraising is touched and affected by economic, social, technological and political trends in our home country, and increasingly, worldwide. To perform to the best of your ability in the office you need to be aware of what is going on outside of it. So, how do you do it?

Extracurricular Fun

Take the time to learn outside the office. Sign up for a webinar once a month. Subscribe to a variety of blogs that focus on different elements of society. Google Currents or Flipboard are great news feed tools to use. They both aggregate news, blogs and websites you’re interested in. Helpful tip, is a great site for tech posts.

Attend Congress! Learning in the moment with a live speaker! Don’t forget to make notes while you read and learn, your brain can only remember so much.

Plug In
There is a lot going on and a lot to keep track of. Observing what other organizations are doing via TV commercials, ads, YouTube videos or street marketing is an important way to keep up to date. Store everything in one place by using Google Keep or EverNote. You can take pictures (a really good or bad ad campaign on the streetcar), write notes, save or create information (documents, handwritten notes, audio, images) in one place. Record meetings, store files, save receipts, scan contracts and store business contacts. Both work in a similar way and can be synced with your phone.

Now, instead of trying to describe to colleagues what exactly that incredibly moving advertisement was, you’ve got the picture and the link saved and ready to go. Instead of searching for changing social trends in specific countries, you’ve got articles and data sent straight to your phone, you’re ready to start that campaign.

Face To Face
I have a smart phone, I have a laptop, I am part of the ‘plugged in’ generation but, I’ve always learnt the most from people, in the flesh. Use your network. Talking to someone one on one allows you to ask questions, insert information, share ideas, come up with collaborative projects, make connections or create solutions in ways you never could have imagined. Converse with people who work within the sectors that influence the fundraising world. Interested in how the changing housing market is going to affect the disposable income of new families? Invite your realtor friend for coffee. Get the insider scoop on how long patients are sitting in waiting rooms over a cocktail with your nurse neighbour. The list goes on but the message stays the same: talk to people.

Use Staff Meetings
Your coworkers are incredible resources. Suggest taking 15 minutes before a meeting to discuss outside trends. You’ll be surprised at the diverse information you can gather.  Ask for opinions and insight! In my small department alone we’ve:

  • Lived in Eastern Canada
  • Lived and worked in the U.K.
  • Have a Masters in Philosophy
  • Are learning to sew
  • Taken AFP courses
  • Can speak French
  • Worked extensively in sales and marketing in for profit companies

So use the resources that are closest to you. They may work with you inside the office, but offer host of information about what’s going on outside of it.

Our constant thirst for knowledge in this sector is fueled by our desire to make our communities better. Fusing this inspiration with technology and our personal networks allows each and every one of us to stay up top of changing trends and bring the best the table. These suggestions may not add another hour to the day but they will help you utilize your time wisely.

Carolyn Hawthorn is a young professional who’s currently working at The Harbourfront Centre as a Business Development Officer. Past professional experiences have seen her at The Terry Fox Foundation and Movember Canada. Carolyn is a public speaker and has written for Hilborn and has pieces of paper from Western University (BA: History) and Humber College (Fundraising and Volunteer Management). She likes chocolate (a lot), pizza (a lot), volleyball and dogs. 

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