We have a small tradition in our family – it’s the annual crafting of our summer “Poo-Butt List.” Now stick with me for a minute.

Each summer we pull out a yellow pad of legal paper and gather around the kitchen table. We all toss out the wild things we’d like to do which can be summed up like this –

  • The practical – Paint the toy box red, assemble a patio chair, figure out what that wild weed is in the garden and how to eradicate it.
  • The skills building – Build an outhouse, secure a cast iron pan and make bannock over a fire, do a backcountry canoe trip.
  • The fun – Go to Le Cigale for ice cream, do one day trip to a new splash pad, hike Marble Rock and do Parliament Hill yoga twice.
  • The whimsical – Find a dinosaur bone, watch a sunrise from the dock, take a nap in the hammock, catch the lake monster fish.

This family tradition harkens back to when my youngest was around the age of three. And like most three-year-olds, she was absolutely fascinated with potty humor. As we tried to explain to her what the purpose of this dreaming was— that it was about identifying and doing the stuff that makes us feel good—she kept on trying to get us to write potty words and actions on the list.

Ultimately she failed. Or maybe not…since this annual summer dreaming is now called the making of the “Poo-Butt List.” If I’ve already grossed you out, I’m so sorry. Kids are disgustingly awesome 😉

While I invite you to craft your very own personal summer list of poo-butt awesomeness, this year I’m also going to try to craft a mini version for myself – for work purposes!

Here are seven realms in which I’m going to challenge myself.


As fundraisers, we can get into ruts. We can run the same program year after year…often because it works. Sometimes, we’re just afraid of failure. Sometimes we feel like we’ve already been there and done that.

This summer, challenge yourself to do one new thing. Or to take a different approach. Or to apply a different lens to a problem.

I’m going to look at my fall fundraising activities and try to get each client I work with to stretch a wee bit out of their comfort zone.

#2. Meet one new person for coffee.

As humans, we can get stuck in our bubbles. We tend to interact with people who share the same values and similar life experiences (I mean, my Facebook feed didn’t give me a clue that Rob Ford was going to win the most recent Ontario election). I like folks who can challenge me to think differently.

Take time to meet up with either a donor, a volunteer or a colleague that you’ve never made more than small talk with before. I like to be intentional with this and try to pick someone whose life stories I’d love to hear and will make my brain stretch.

#3. Set aside one hour to tackle lingering items on your to-do list.

My life is organized by a series of to-do lists. There’s always 5-10 minor things that I just never get to and keep on pushing forward to the next week…and the next week…and the week after that. I feel such guilt and anguish that these very simple things don’t get done. And they’re dead simple tasks like sort through that pile of papers from a meeting in January and decide what to file and what to toss.

What’s left on your list that’s occupying precious mental space? Let’s you and I get-er-done!

#4. Time to reflect.

How are things going with your fundraising program this year? What’s working well? What needs to be fine-tuned? What do you need more, or less, of?

While we often take time after the December rush to look at our results and reflect on how our programs performed, how many of us do a mid-year check-in? Especially since budgeting is right around the corner.

Set aside a morning with a hot cup of coffee or tea and shut your office door and do a full review of your program and results to date. This should be more than a qualitative review of your results. Look at your fundraising materials, feel them and read them. What kind of relationships are you building with your donors?

#5. Collect three new stories.

One of the best tools a fundraiser can have is a good impact story. I like to have many at the ready to tell. The best way to collect these is to talk with program staff and users themselves.

Take a break from your desk and go out to where the magic of your mission happens. Sit and observe for a while. Talk and ask questions. Remember why you do this work? Collect these moments and the stories from the field. They’ll serve you well.

#6. Read one, okay two or more, reports.

By mid-year, I’ve amassed quite a reading file. Short stuff, like this blog, I’ve already quickly digested. But there are reports that I should read that I just haven’t made time to do more than skim. If I killed a tree to print it out to read, I really should read it.

Let’s work together on actually making the time to read the stuff that can make us better fundraisers and build our knowledge bank. Here are a few on my list.

#7. Inbox count zero.

I have an email strategy. I respond in 24 hours, but I try to tackle email in chunks throughout the day. First thing, before or after lunch and before I wrap up my day. Delete it. File it. Action it. You have to do something with it. Leaving it sitting in your inbox is not an option.

Getting to inbox count zero brings me the greatest amount of joy. Especially before I leave on vacation! But your email inbox would probably scare me. Am I correct?

So, here’s your challenge. Before you go on vacation this summer, can you get to inbox count zero? I’d love for you to feel the euphoria of having everything delegated, wrapped up and being handled so that you can truly check out and relax this summer vacation (and perhaps tackle a personal poo-butt list of your own).