A: Read any of the "get
rich" books, and you will hear the advice to Pay Yourself First - as soon as
you get your paycheck, take a small percentage off the top and put it into
savings / investments. The advice is that you take care of what is most
Does your organization pay itself
first? Are you taking care of what is most important before anything else? Or
are the most important things playing second fiddle to what is urgent, what is
on fire, what is piled up on your desk, what is past due?
So Many Ways to Pay Our
To get past the tendency to let the urgent drown
out the important, what would happen if your organization paid itself
- If you are a
board member, how might your meetings be different if the board were to spend
just 5 minutes at the beginning of every meeting, reminding board members of
the future you are there to create for your community? See what difference just
5 minutes can make, as you take the time to talk about the subject that is more
important than anything else - the difference you are there to make in people's
- And what might
your board's ability to govern look like if you set aside just 1% of your
organization's budget to provide ongoing education about governance? (1% is not
too much to ask for the group who is accountable for every action the
How might your ability to create impact improve if
you set aside another 1% - this time 1% of your personnel budget - for ongoing
education for the staff as well?
- If you are an
Executive Director or Program Manager, what if you took just 5 minutes every
day, to reconnect with what is possible - the organization's very highest
potential for effecting lasting change in the community? What if you asked
yourself, at the start of every day, "What future will I be creating today? For
- If you are an
Executive Director, how might your possibilities explode if first thing Monday
morning, before doing anything else, you called just one person who is
important to the work your organization is trying to do? That person might be
the Mayor, or the head of a similar program to the one you run. It might be
just someone who has done amazing work in the community, who might have ideas
about the work you are doing. Or it might be one of your donors, whom you have
never met. You might call to set up a meeting for coffee, or simply to "sleuth"
him or her.* Imagine making that one call, first thing Monday morning - could
there be a better way to start the week?
As you think
about what is important, you realize that we can pay ourselves first in all
sorts of ways - small ways that will not intrude on our day, but that will have
a huge return.
if you think that 5 minutes or 1% of the budget is not enough, we agree. But we
also know that if you set your sights higher, it is more likely you will find a
reason not to do it. So start small. Get into the habit first, then expand to
bigger and better things.
The logic behind
paying yourself first is not just that you set aside dollars and time for what
is most important - creating impact, education, inspiration.
The real beauty of paying yourself
first is something we know from our real lives: We will always find time for
As an example, consider your own
income. If you are taking home a salary of $4,000 per month, you know how to
budget that $4,000 - what percentage goes to the mortgage, what percentage to
food, to car payments and etc.
If you were to suddenly only have
$3,800 per month, you would instantly know how to reapportion - you would pay a
bit less here or there, but you would figure it out.
That is the logic behind paying
yourself first. If you take that $200 out of the equation from the beginning,
the bills will still get paid, and you likely won't notice that $200 is gone.
But if you wait till the end of the month to put what's left into savings, you
and I both know there will be nothing left to save. We spend what we
We also spend what we allot when it
comes to our time. If we take 10 minutes at the beginning of the day, and we
commit to using that 10 minutes for something that will bring our efforts
forward, we will have paid ourselves first - and we will figure out how to get
the rest of the work done in those 8 hours minus 10 minutes.
But if we wait for the end of the day,
we will have spent that 10 minutes - and suddenly the day will have run away
And here is the bonus tip:
One more thing: paying yourself first starts with you. Not "you the
board member" or "you the Executive Director" but "you the person."
What might change in your life if you
started each morning by taking 5 minutes - just 5 minutes - listing the many
blessings you have, the things for which you are infinitely grateful? What
might change if you took 5 minutes every morning - just 5 minutes - to envision
the future you want to create, for those you love, for yourself, for the world
And what might change if you commit to
call one old friend per month - just one per month! Certainly you can do that -
perhaps the first Sunday of the month, call someone you haven't spoken to in a
while. How much richer might your life be?
Life is short. If we don't do the
important things first, we will continue to let the urgent drown out the
important. It is as true of life as it is for work. So let's get
* If you are not familiar with the
term "sleuthing," check out FriendRaising. Community Sleuthing is one of the
most effective and simplest Community Engagement strategies you can use!