In 2013, I wrote my first book and entered the wild word of publishing.
Seven years and four books later, authoring remains an ever-exploratory journey. Sending a work out into this world can take myriad routes – each with its own terrain, obstacles and buried treasures.
My adventure began by publishing my first novel Hope Rising through a traditional publishing company. I entered the process like a kid on Christmas Eve – all the wonder of what might be waiting under the tree brimming up inside me. I understood the privilege of the moment; that only four percent of submitted manuscripts were accepted. I was now part of a small group of budding authors whose names would grace the cover of a book, backed by the power of a publisher. I dreamed big dreams.
A diligent worker, I took on all the challenges of being an unknown author. I promoted myself. I built a web site. I accepted speaking engagements. I arranged book signings. I showed up at library talks, sometimes with only three people in the room. I attended author trainings, wrote blogs, and engaged social media.
I also learned quickly that if you aren’t Dr. Phil or Oprah Winfrey, it is unlikely you will make a big name for yourself as a new author. Most of my profits went to the publisher. I made marginal gains. Sometimes, I lost money.
The same company published my second book Chuck and Spark Explore the Park – a fully illustrated children’s story. Soon after, my publisher was shut down and my two precious books went out of print. All that was left was the inventory on my shelf at home. A flurry of calls came from other publishers looking to profit by charging me to re-publish my book. I felt deflated.
Focusing my attention on my primary profession as a non-profit fundraiser, I moved forward. After presenting at a national conference, I was selected to write an industry book Five Strategies to Increase Annual Fund Revenue. This time, I signed with a very reputable publishing company and experienced the joys of working with seasoned professionals. I gained access to the company’s president who mentored me, and to other authors in the group who encouraged and co-promoted one another. It was a joyous experience. Some years later, that publisher also closed his doors.
No matter the process you engage, as authors, we have to toil. Writing a book is an arduous task. Promoting one is another beast entirely. Seven years in, and authoring has offered me a business card, so to speak. It has opened myriad doors for paid speaking and consulting I never would have accessed without those credentials after my name.
This year, I ventured into a new corridor. I self-published for the first time. My fourth book – a novella titled Waking Up Grateful: Turning a Painful Past into a Purposeful Present - is, by far, my favorite work. I wanted to experience self-publishing as part of my author journey. It has exceeded expectations. I am learning new tools, rebuilding my web site, learning to create promotional videos, and repurposing blogs.
I understand today that making a lot of money or garnering a “big name” is of least importance to me. I am a writer. I am compelled to write. Authoring has taken so many turns. Each has grown me as a person. Just as the painter is called, time and again, to the canvas – I am called to write. How I send that finished piece into the world is up to me. I encourage anyone who shares this passion to take the leap. Despite the hardships, it IS a rewarding journey.
Find Pamela at www.BeASeedPlanter.com or on LinkedIn under Pamela Say, BA, MBA, CFRE. Visit her Amazon author page at:
Public Speaking is the most important skill we hate.
If you’re in the 7% of Americans who have an actual phobia of public speaking, you experience a physical and mental reaction akin to fight or flight, leading to measurable, negative consequences in your life. Somewhere around 27 million Americans experience glossophobia or a diagnosed phobia of public speaking.
For the rest of us (all but maybe 10 percent of the population who enjoy public speaking), we experience anxiety, though it doesn’t equate to a disorder.
Ten years ago, I counted myself in “the rest of us.” When I was FORCED (because I never volunteered) to public speak, I would sweat and get stomach cramps, a racing heart, shaky hands and legs, a quivering voice, elevated body temperature, blushing, and a disrupted ability to think.
My fear was not unique. Stats say public speaking ranks FIRST in America’s top five fears, followed in order by death, spiders, the dark, and heights. In other words, some of us would rather die, get bit by a giant spider, sit alone in the pitch black woods, or stand on the ledge of a tall building than speak in front of a crowd.
Today, I LOVE public speaking. It contributes to career progression, higher income, board and committee memberships, and professional credibility. I motivate team members to translate vision into practical operations by communicating powerfully. I build and deliver the case for a new budget line or an innovative new program without fear. I influence organizational behavior toward achievement of strategic goals by inspiring groups. Not to mention, I position myself as an expert.
Shedding my fear also helped me be a better mom, friend, and human being. Isolation is a key factor limiting personal and spiritual growth. By getting comfortable talking in groups and being vulnerable, I could take on some of my self-limiting behavior. I joined a community-based group and at first, was terrified to talk in front of them. As I overcame that fear, I grew personally and my relationships blossomed.
Often, I speak to college-aged students and, much like me at that age, they sit in silence when there's an opportunity for group discussion. Maybe one or two students will engage the conversation. Matching the statistics, they are the 10 percent. The others say nothing, missing out on wonderful opportunities to develop themselves and network with an industry connection.
Today, I speak all over the country, but how did I make the transition from visibly frightened to confident and competent?
Practice, practice, practice. You have to do it to demystify it. As uncomfortable as it is, push yourself to engage in public speaking opportunities. Start where you feel safe and work your way into new and expanding groups. It won't feel good overnight, so don't give up. Keep at it for a year and you'll be amazed at the transformation.
Forgive your flaws. Slips ups, forgotten words, shaky hands and blushing are NORMAL. Don’t let imperfection stop you in your tracks. I give powerful keynotes flawlessly but even after years of practice, I still get hit with the occasional anxiety. If I have a bad day speaking, I brush it off and move forward. Perfectionism will get me nowhere.
Study. My first year public speaking I felt like I was going to throw up every time. I needed help! I’ll never forget finding the book The Breakout Principle at the public library. It offered simple tactics to distract my mind from anxiety right before speaking. It worked! We spends thousands on a college education. Why not invest in some resources today to make yourself more competitive?
Start with a script. In the early days, I would get so lost in my head, I HAD to script out my speech. Sometimes I read it word for word. So what? I had to go through that phase. Eventually, I only referred to it to stay on track. Later, I moved toward note cards and sometimes today I use no script at all. This is a process. We will not be a pro on day one or even in year three. Allow yourself to evolve.
Get a mentor! While at an author’s conference in Nashville, TN, Anne Freedman, CEO of Speakout, Inc. and author of Public Speaking for the Genius, blew my mind with her presentation on how to be a better speaker. I furiously took notes. I stayed in touch with Anne. A couple years later I was helping manage a conference and suggested Anne as our keynote. We hired her and I took advantage of the opportunity to visit with Anne and talk more. I was offering a breakout session so I invited Anne and asked her to critique me. She did, and again, I found myself growing immeasurably. Professional athletes get better with the help of coaches who watch, video, and analyze their game. We can do the same!
At the end of the day, if you can develop this skill you will be in the ten percent. Want to set yourself apart, grow as a person, and blast past your work and life goals? Take on public speaking. The rewards are well worth the effort.
Today I obtained my Certified Fund Raising Executive (CFRE) credential…
…after 17 years working in non-profit fundraising and marketing
…having reached the executive suite
…subsequent to publishing my first fundraising book
…following my election as President of my chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals
…succeeding a four-year journey speaking nationally on philanthropic and other topics.
You may wonder why I sought certification now, why I didn’t do it sooner, or why I did it all since I’ve reached a career pinnacle. My story is a testimonial to a shift in the profession – one I’m proud to be a part of.
When I entered the industry post-college nearly two decades ago, I knew no one who said, “I want a career as a fundraiser.” Everyone I knew “fell” into the profession. They may have been hired because they had connections to donors, corporate leaders, or politicians. Some came up in PR or event management and transitioned into development. Others began as board members or volunteers, sparking a passion for formal work in fundraising.
Far fewer people are “falling” into fundraising today. They are studying to become masters of their craft. I see the shift in the profession most obviously in the passion and seriousness our young professionals exhibit when I talk to them at conferences and trainings. They inspire me!
Today, there are colleges offering degrees in philanthropy. Associations are professionalizing career tracks and defining our roles and responsibilities. Colleges, consultants, and research organizations compiled years of data and study to quantify the growth and impact of philanthropy. Processes are now documented and formalized to help us be more strategic, efficient and impactful. Standards and ethics take center stage.
Even the skeptics are beginning to see fundraising as an altruistic call to civic engagement which transforms lives and communities.
To be frank, I’m a bit embarrassed I didn’t get my CFRE sooner. In my home region, few people had the CFRE compared to neighboring cities. I believe, as a region, we were a little behind, but that too is changing. In the last couple months four of us earned our CFRE.
Today I see our profession is moving in a healthy direction toward high standards of quality and practice. The CFRE is a great way to demonstrate not only that I have the experience necessary to be an executive in my profession, but I’ve put the effort in to understand the intricate details of this work. What a benefit to my non-profit and the donors I serve.
In my new book Five Strategies to Increase Annual Fund Revenue I consider a common challenge in our industry – coming up shy of the goal. Falling short of the vision is a universal issue we all face in our lives and careers.
Stalled goals can halt a company’s progress, deprive communities of important services, and prevent individuals from achieving lifelong dreams, but it can be overcome. Here are three potential reasons we don’t make it to the finish line and how to get back on track.
In development, misunderstanding leads to lost results. Fundraisers and donors alike misunderstand the purpose of development work and often become rooted in failure before they begin.
This concept is true in all industries. Misunderstanding limits our capacity for success right out of the gate. If you are struggling with a goal, ask yourself, what might I be misunderstanding? Take a learning journey. Talk to experts in the field or people who have accomplished what it is you are trying to achieve. Begin to root out those things which are limiting your potential. Being an expert in a certain area may have gotten you so far, but perhaps it is time to take a step back and consider this. There is always more to learn!
Fear is a very real deterrent to success and 99 percent of the time people will not admit they are scared. They point to every possible reason for failure rather than acknowledging, “I’m scared and I need help to overcome what is holding me back.”
The positive thing is we all feel fear. I have visited more donors than I can count, making asks big and small, and I still get a twinge of nervousness every time. Ask yourself, “What exactly am I afraid of and how is that stopping me from boldly achieving my dreams?” Often fear of rejection or hearing no stops us from making the case for ourselves and our organizations. I learned something valuable in my field that applies across the board.
The best way to annihilate fear is (1) preparation and practice, (2) openness to feedback and adjustment, and (3) acceptance that some things you have no answers for.
Just because we make a bold and well-practiced case doesn’t mean we can’t adjust it or go searching for answers to questions that confound us. One of my favorite sayings is, “I don’t know but I’ll find out!” The point is, never let the fear of no prevent you from getting to yes. In other words, brace yourself for significant rejection but never stop working toward that one yes that will launch you toward success.
3. Lack of a rigorous process
Whether you are trying to achieve stretch goals for your company or the next level of your career, it takes a structured process. In my industry, fundraising for anything requires staged processes with timelines, goals, strategies, and measurable milestones. More organizations and individuals than you think do not maintain consistent processes when trying to achieve major goals. Many do not track results, analyze what is or isn’t working, and adjust along the way.
In companies, dive into the research and find out what the absolute best processes and proven methods are to achieving a goal like yours. If you are trying to accomplish a major milestone in your career or with your family, what processes might you put in place to add structure to your steps? Even something as simple as asking for feedback from others can improve your resume, your communication skills, and your interpersonal abilities. Debrief with someone you trust after each attempt at achieving your goals. Share what you did and get feedback so you can adjust your process next time.
It is never too late to get it right!
Remember, stalled goals are not an end to anything. They are a milepost on your road to success. Don’t let misunderstanding, fear, or lack of a rigorous process be the reasons you give up on your dreams! Some of the greatest successes the world has known were achieved by failing forward.
VISIT PAM AT WWW.BEASEEDPLANTER.COM TO LEARN MORE ABOUT HER UPCOMING BOOK, JOIN HER CONTACT LIST, AND HEAR ABOUT NEW BLOGS, SPEAKING ENGAGEMENTS, AND RELEASE DATES FIRST!
I recently served on a panel of women Executives for the Buffalo Niagara Partnership’s PowerUP event. PowerUP is an all-women’s event that includes insights and wisdom from successful business women as well as opportunities for networking. I knew I’d learn something – but I received much more than I expected that day.
First, the keynote speaker was Rhonda Frederick, President and Chief Executive Officer of People, Inc. Rhonda approached her talk in a straightforward and vulnerable way, sharing personal and professional challenges she faced and overcame.
Inspired by her story, many of us on the panel went on to share life challenges we worked through toward our ultimate leadership potential. Some of the leaders in the room talked about their divorces, what it was like to be a working single mom, overcoming brokenness as teenagers, unexpected pregnancies, work-life balance and more. Soon, the audience chimed in and we began to realize, none of has a “perfect story.” As human beings we all face uphill battles at times. We stumble and fall. Sometimes people might count us out. Yet, through perseverance we gain strength. That resilience helps us to be better leaders.
I loved that this topic came up organically because I talk about this often when giving keynotes and teaching workshops through my business Seed Planters. One of my favorite authors, Bill George, in his book True North, asserts that great leaders do an “inner work.” They put their life story in context and face and overcome their greatest crucibles. This is what makes them authentic and trustworthy. The PowerUP panelists and keynote speaker embodied that concept.
As the evening came to a close, I could see women reaching out to one another as they engaged in discussion and networking. I remembered when I first began my career sixteen years ago. It was a different time and women were less able or likely to mentor up-and-coming professionals. Being vulnerable was practically unheard of. It wasn’t the way of the business world back then. I believe many of those women paved the way for us, today, to be vulnerable and find inspiration and support in one another.
So in that spirit, thank you Mary Travers Murphy of the Family Justice Center, Althea Luehrsen of Leadership Buffalo, Cindi McEachon of Peace Prints WNY, and Morgan Williams-Bryant of Girls Scouts of WNY. As fellow panelists, you inspired me! Thank you, Rhonda Frederick. You set the tone for an amazing discussion. And last but certainly not least, thank you Jacquie Walker from WIVB Channel 4, for serving as hostess and MC.
Each of you is making a difference in the world and I am proud to serve alongside you. So, in your honor, and in the spirit of one of the world’s greatest business women, I leave you with this final thought:
“Dare to be different. Be a pioneer. Be a leader. Be the kind of woman who in the face of adversity will continue to embrace life and walk fearlessly toward the challenge.” – Miss Oprah Winfrey
Pamela Say is a published author, fundraiser, and life-long student of leadership. Browse Pam's blog entries for possible conference session or keynote topics. Pam customizes training opportunities for her clients.
Read Pamela's internationally published articles at Orato.World:
Father's death leads son to advocate for firefighter cancer awareness
Father offers forgiveness to five-year-old son's killer
Kenyan journalist forcibly outed, launches Bold Network Africa
Hope Virgo fought for her life, campaigns for eating disorder support
Paxton Smith reflects on graduation speech swap, starting collge, and book deal
From racism to one race: the Jane Elliott story