February has been a dull month - ate a lot of comfort food and ended it filling my face with pancakes. I've heard of January blues, but February was tough for me with days of disappointment.
One thing I carried on was reading, and felt incredible about this month...
After deciding to take on the Popsugar reading challenge, I have realised I need to read 3 or 4 books each month. After reading 6 books last month as described here, I thought I might continue that success. However I picked slightly bigger books, so might be able to make it up in March.
1. A book that is a story within a story
Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell
Cloud Atlas was utterly disappointing to me. 7 stories within a story and didn't take to one - I couldn't understand how they connected. There was one story with a slight take one flew over the cuckoo's nest. I'm impressed I finished the book, but I didn't understand it. It's probably not my kind of book. Anyone who has read it, can you please explain what happened?
2. A book set in two different time periods
The Time Traveller's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
Having watched the film and loved it, I was excited to give this a shot. I was not disappointed. I'm not usually one for love stories, but this wasn't a typical love story. It had magic, intrigue and drama. Clare and Henry meet in different time periods. She first meets him when she's 6 and he's 42, he first meets her when she's 20 and he's 28. There are some things that happen in the film that don't happen in the book and vice versa, but I still loved both in their different ways. I was a bit disappointed by the end. I don't want to give too much about what happens with the characters, but I will say I was disappointed that it went from 2008 to 2053. It would have been nice to know a bit about what happened in between that 45 odd years.
3. A book with career advice
The Zen of Fundraising: 9 Timeless Ideas to Strengthen and Develop your Donor Relationships by Ken Burnett
This one might be boring to many, but it is fascinating to me. I love fundraising - it is my one true love. Unfortunately on the way to the career path, it has broken my heart and rejected me more than once, but like any true love, you know you learn from it. Probably not the best analogy. I read a book telling you 89 principles of good fundraiser conduct, and advice to getting the best from donors. It describes the best things to do, and think every detail makes sense. I disagree that charities neglect donors like the author makes out. My favourite passage is as follows:
"Learn twelve keys to world-class donor service.
- Be committed. You and your donor service staff have to really like donors and to be really committed to offering them first-class service.
- Be properly resourced. Customer service is something that shouldn't be done on the cheap. The service function needs proper planning and demands the allocation of sufficient resources. If you skimp you'll probably do more harm than good.
- Be consistent. Good service raises expectations. People need to know they can depend on certain standards of performance at all times, whenever needed.
- Be quick. Delayed responses irritate. Prompt responses please.
- Be appropriate. Tailor your response to your donors. Avoid waste and overindulging customers.
- Be personal. People like to be remembered and addressed by name.
- Be recognised. That way you'll increase your chances of being liked. This is where, as I've said elsewhere, you should publicise your nonprofit's service personnel and show their pictures. Stress they are there only to serve donors.
- Be meticulous. Keep first-class records, so you can act on these twelve keys and more.
- Be there. You can't go home when your donors need you. If a twenty-four-hour service seems over the top, at least operate a facility for voice messages. It may be that your organisation's service department will be in most demand in evenings from 6.00 P.M. to 9.00 P.M. If so, pay staff a bit extra to cover those hours.
- Be open and honest. Never cover up.. If your department or organisation have screwed up, say so quickly and explain it fully. Donors will love you for it.
- Be cheerful and helpful. Never let donors feel that asking is a trouble. That's what you are there for - to help them.
- Teach customer care to all your colleagues. I have never forgotten a simple piece of advice from the days when I sold advertising space over the telephone - smile and dial. When you smile while talking on the phone, what you are saying sounds much better at the other end. It really works. Try it. (Tell your colleagues first; otherwise they'll think you've gone mad)."
Now I can't decide which book to stick to, but reading the autobiographies: The Life of Lee by Lee Evans and I am Malala by Malala Yousafzai with Christina Lamb.
Let me know what you think. Have you read any of the books described? Are you doing a reading challenge this year?