4. Make It A Happy New Year – Start to Finish

the intentional fundraiser podcast


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About this episode

Welcome to 2022!

I love a New Year!

A fresh start.

A new beginning.

An opportunity to create and reimagine the future.

To dream new dreams.

To set new goals.

The truth is, you and I both know we can start fresh and set new goals at any moment during the year. And yet, there’s something magical about January 1st and planning for a new year, at least for me. In fact, it may just be my favorite holiday.

I want to share how I approach planning for my new year. I’ve honed this process over many years – and it works for me. Maybe a nugget or two will enhance your new year planning. And if this approach resonates with you, download our free New Year Goal Planning Guide. It’s a simple set of prompts to inspire your reflection and 2022 goal and dream setting.



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I like to begin my New Year by identifying and eradicating the clutter. What isn’t useful to me any longer – tangibly and intangibly. Before I add anything for 2022, I need to make room for the new and minimize things that can distract me or aren’t a good use of my time and energy. What will I discard, minimize or stop doing altogether?

I start with my email inbox.

unsubscribe to email feeds that I once wanted or needed, that I don’t want or need anymore. Or maybe I gave my email address in exchange for a download of a new research paper or study at some point during the past year.

unsubscribe to emails from my favorite brands. Tempting email promotions that don’t move me closer to my financial goals and can be a “shiny object” when I’m developing training or speaking content or working on a client project. Goodbye, Pottery Barn. Kate Spade. Goodbye, Veronica Beard and Angela Scott. I’ll miss you all! I mean, I will really, really miss you.

I delete smartphone apps that I don’t really use or want to keep paying for each month or year.

After all, to create something new, we need a clearing. A blank space. A clean surface. Think about a construction site. What’s the first thing a builder will do when planning to erect a new structure? They clear and grade the land. Every new structure needs a clean, solid foundation on which to build – free of rubble and environmental toxins. Your dreams and goals for 2022 are no different.

Removing the clutter may also mean clearing physical space. Taking down holiday decorations. Dragging that once beautiful, now sad little half-naked Christmas tree to the curb for recycling. Clearing out closets, tidying up your office, your family spaces, or private spaces like bedrooms. Especially since many of us have been working from home or working in a hybrid model. Our work and the kid’s work may have completely taken over our homes!

Purging and donating items we don’t use frequently. Clothing that no longer fits us well or isn’t our current style. Be bold and donate those jeans you proudly wore before you had children. For me, if I ever get back to that size – I will treat myself to some NEW jeans! Feel me?

It could mean cleaning out our cars. Here’s my litmus test: would you be ashamed to have a donor or your Executive Director or your mother-in-law ride-a-long with you today – this very moment? If the answer is “yes,” it’s time. Grab a trash bag, some Armor All wipes, and your vacuum attachments. You can do this.

As they say, “Outer order, inner calm.”

Now, don’t get overwhelmed. You don’t have to take on ALL of these ideas! Pick a couple of rooms, devote one hour on a Saturday for the next three weeks, or a couple of weeknights when your brain is tired – and you’re ready for a change of activities. You set the list and the pace.

The older I get (or more seasoned, I should say), the more I gravitate to minimalism. If you’re looking for a great book on this topic, I highly recommend Essentialism: The disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown. It’s available in print and audio versions. So, if you feel like you don’t have time to sit and read, download the audio version and listen to it when you’re working out, washing the dishes, driving, or getting yourself ready in the morning.

The side benefits of clearing out “stuff” is that over time, you’ll have less to dust, more room in your closet, and less chaos in your cupboards! But it really will help clear your mind.


The next step in my New Year planning process is to assess the mental and emotional drains on my spirit. 

  • Are there relationships that need to be mended? That could mean reaching out to someone to clear up a misunderstanding. Or it could mean having a conversation about forgiveness with them or quietly forgiving them in your own heart and mind to set yourself free.
  • What reconnections need to be made? I know for myself, I have Aunts and Uncles that are now in their seventies and eighties, that I don’t call or visit nearly enough. NOT checking in on them makes me feel GUILTY and SAD – and I always feel good after talking with them! Scheduling a weekly or monthly reminder to call is an easy fix. If I don’t put it in my calendar, it just doesn’t happen. I think of them, but it’s often too early in the morning or too late at night to call.
  • Are there relationships that should be distanced? I once saw a t-shirt that said, “I’m not for everyone.” YES! What freedom there is in that statement. Not that it gives me permission to be a jerk. But rather, a message to we ‘people pleasers’ that not everyone will embrace, agree or even like us. And that’s okay. Trying to please them or win them over is a waste of precious time and energy. I’m not for everyone.

I’m sure you see an emerging theme here. You are clearing the space to create your best year – and really, your amazing future.

So, to recap our progress so far:

  • We’ve created a clearing by evaluating our digital and physical spaces and eradicating what no longer serves us.
  • We’ve assessed the emotional and mental drains on our spirit and what we are willing to do to clear them.

That’s pretty good, but we aren’t done yet!

We’ve created a little space, now we can reflect on 2021 with a clear mind.

What were your proudest accomplishments in 2021? What achievements make you smile? Give you that feeling of satisfaction or victory? What happened in 2021, that makes you want to jump up and give yourself a high-5?

  • For me: my partner and I going full-time into our business, Fundraising Transformed, was HUGE. Exciting and scary and the bravest and truest thing we could have possibly done.
  • Launching this Intentional Fundraiser Podcast. We’ve received such positive and encouraging feedback. Confirmation that we are providing value to a community of nonprofit leaders all around the world. That means a lot to us.
  • Expanding my virtual keynote speaking and training services to Italy & Australia. And we have some big announcements coming soon about in-personal international masterclasses and conference speaking in 2022 (pandemic willing)!
  • Joining the faculty of the Institute for Charitable Giving, founded by Jerold Panas & Bill Sturtevant and carried forward by the remarkable and understated Felicity Panas, is a true honor and a very proud achievement.
  • Those are a few of my proud accomplishments. You’ll have way more!

So, what are they? Write them down! Celebrate them! Too often, we’re so future-focused that we don’t take time to reflect, celebrate and give thanks for our accomplishments and blessings. Do a little happy dance, and then let’s move on to the next part of this exercise.

What were your biggest regrets? Or disappointments if you don’t believe in regrets. What didn’t go the way you wanted, and it still stings a bit? What didn’t get started, launched, or completed that was a 2021 priority for you? What was an epic failure (aka epic learning)? Make a list of those regrets or disappointments.

Just list them—no need to suffer needlessly or make yourself or anyone wrong in this exercise. Just matter-of-factly list those regrets and disappointments. They will serve you as you create your new year’s goals and plans. I’ll share first: 

  • Although we walked a lot in 2021, I regret not being more consistent with my yoga practice.
  • I regret that it took longer than expected to launch this podcast. My original goal was May 26th, and we delayed it due to competing priorities.
  • I regret that I didn’t get to say proper goodbyes to everyone I adore associated with The Children’s Center when I resigned from my position as Chief Philanthropy Officer after nine years.

These should be regrets you could influence. Of course, we all regret that we’ve been in a pandemic, going on 3-years. We regret the loss of loved ones, jobs, and so on. But what are the regrets or disappointments you could have better influenced and didn’t? Write those down. Honor them as progress – whether that progress was inching closer or, lessons learned.

Now the best part: what are your fondest goals and dreams for 2022?

  • What goals and dreams would fill your heart with joy and light up your life? Be specific: what, how, by when?
  • Don’t debate the worthiness or do-ability of your goals and dreams right now. Too often, we talk ourselves out of our own goals and dreams before they’ve even had a chance. Use the “Warren Buffett 25/5 Rule.” Brainstorm 25 BIG goals and then come back and narrow it down to 5 big goals that you’ll take on for the year. Stack rank them in order of importance. Define (in writing) what success looks like. Identify not only the end result in specific and measurable ways. Define those milestones, timelines, and the resources you’ll need to achieve each goal.
  • You can apply this goal-setting approach to your work, your health, your relationship, and your family goals. You choose. But you want to land on three to five BIG goals that move you towards your dreams.


Congratulations, you’ve just set your Top 5 Dreams & Goals for 2022! Now the real work can begin! Roll up those sleeves, y’all!

For each 2022 goal, you’ll want to develop a plan and timeline with specific, measurable activities and outcomes. 

  • What are the top 3-to-5 priorities that will move you closer to your 2022 dreams and goals in Q1? Q2? Q3? Q4?
  • For each quarter, what are the top 3-to-5 priorities or achievements each month to move you closer to achieving your 2022 dreams and goals?
  • For each month in the quarter, what are the top 3-to-5 priorities or achievements you’ll need to accomplish each week to ensure you meet your monthly goals?
  • And lastly, what are the root-cause activities that drive strategic outcomes? Is it meaningful donor engagement for you? Is it the number of grant applications and stewardship reports submitted?
  • I like to think of those beautiful Russian matryoshka or nesting dolls. The Matryona doll is the Matron or Mother. Each doll that follows is smaller in size, down to the babushka or baby doll. For our purposes, the Mother doll represents your 3-to-5 annual goals, followed by your top 3-to-5 quarterly sub-goals, followed by your top 3-to-5 monthly micro-goals, and then the baby represents your weekly root-cause activities that drive priority results.
  • It may not be easy at first, but it is a simple process that can help you not only identify meaningful goals for 2022 but can keep them alive all year long. It just takes dedication to the process.
  • And by the way, we’re talking about this process for your personal goals setting today. It can also work for goal setting with your development team or your entire nonprofit organization.

Lastly, consider who will YOU need to become to achieve these goals. What new knowledge will you need to gain? What new skills will you need to develop? What existing expertise will you need to leverage or take to the next level?

Create your personal development plan for the next year. You can start with a list of books to read. You may be like me and can just peruse the dozens of book titles stacked up on your bedside table. Perhaps you’ll identify your favorite or emerging thought leaders via podcasts and smartphone apps that can fuel you into becoming the person you want and need to be to achieve your goals and dreams.

For me, my go-to smartphone apps are:

  • Growth Day membership with Brendon Bruchard, Best-selling author and founder of the High-Performance Institute
  • Masters of Scale with Reid Hoffman
  • Insight Timer meditation app (Beth Kanter recommended it. And it really helps me to get into a deep sleep at night)
  • The Tapping Solution with Nick Ortner
  • And Audible so that I can listen to my favorite authors

And of course, my top production tools like Salesforce, Kajabi, Basecamp, Zoom, Microsoft Teams & Outlook 365.

Undoubtedly your top production tools will also include your cloud-or-app-based donor management system.

Next, I determine my e-learning and conference learning goals for the new year. How do I want to grow and develop myself so that I may add more value to my nonprofit clients and followers? So, I can be a better human, partner, mother, friend, and Nana! Which educational programs and conferences will I participate in, and where will they live in my calendar?

This year I’m signed up for:

  • Jen Shang’s Philanthropic Psychology certification program through the Institute for Sustainable Philanthropy
  • The Association of Fundraising Professionals is a great resource for learning. I’ve been a member for more than 20 years.
  • Brene Brown’s teaching on empathy, leadership, and story stewardship
  • Continuing my work with Roger Love and his renowned voice and keynote speaker training and coaching program
  • And I’m continuing to follow my favorite nonprofit and business thought leaders: Adrian Sargeant, Tom Ahern, Ken Burnett, Harvey McKinnon, Kay Sprinkle Grace, Penelope Cagney, Lisa Greer, Beth Kanter, Bernard Ross, Malcolm Gladwell, Simon Sinek, and so many more.

Of course, I would love to see YOU join my community of Fundraising Transformers. My online learning membership community that goes LIVE with training and coaching twice a month. We’ll be making some exciting announcements about how we’re expanding learning and engagement opportunities within that community in 2022. Stay tuned for that!

Here’s the thing, the best fundraisers, nonprofit and business leaders I’ve ever met view themselves as lifelong learners. They never feel like they know all there is to know about their area of knowledge or zone of genius. No matter how brilliant they are!

As longtime major league baseball player, coach, and manager Joe Girardi once said, “The elevator to success is out of order. You’ll have to use the stairs. One step at a time.”

Happy new year! And cheers to you for dedicating yourself to making 2022 your best year ever.


Subscribe to this podcast

Also, if you haven’t done so already, subscribe to the podcast. I’m adding a bunch of bonus episodes to the feed and, if you’re not following, there’s a good chance you’ll miss out. Subscribe now!



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