Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Nothing to Something

It is easy to forget that Project Smile was once nothing. Seven years ago next month I started working on it full time. I opened our bank account with a $50 personal check that summer and never looked back. I get so caught up with the future and working towards our goal that I forget where we came from. My thoughts usually focus on what we're not doing, what needs to get done, how to do things better, etc. I do enjoy our accomplishments and the work makes me happy, but it is only rare times when I think about how far things have come. The truth is that it doesn't really matter how far you've come. What matters is where you are in this moment and where you are going. However, there are things that happen that do make you think about how far we've come.

I was at an event tonight in Boston talking to some friends. One person was trying to get a friend of mine to sign up for our date auction. A girl came over to talk to the person who was trying to get my friend signed up. The guy who was trying to sign up my friend turned to the girl who had just come over and told her how he was trying to get my friend signed up for the charity date auction. Immediately, the girl said, "oh, the one at Gypsy Bar?" She had been to the event a couple of times and enjoyed it. It is so awesome to see that type of recognition for our event. He said date auction and she immediately knew what it was- perfect! I walked back to my car quite happy and thinking about how far we've come. It was only 4 years ago that we started our first date auction and every year it keeps getting better.

So what else is happening? I've reached out to a very large event planning company to help work on a road race that we want to do next year- it is a road race with a unique spin. I think it will be a terrific event for us. I've been wanting to do it for a couple of years now. I would love to work with this company, but it depends on their fees. I spoke with one of the planners today and we are going to speak again next week. I will keep you posted.

I spent a lot of today working on a grant. I'm actually sending it to the woman who used to help review my grants. I haven't sent anything for her to review for a couple of years, but I just want to get her feedback on it. We received a $5,000 grant from this foundation a couple of years ago. We need to get the funding again, so I want this to be perfect. They ask you to apply for the same program that they originally funded which is good. Some foundations don't like to do funding for the same program.

Well, I think that's it for tonight. I went to bed a lot earlier last night and it helped me this morning. I want to eat, but I'm trying to not eat late at night unless it is fruit. I don't think we have any fruit in the kitchen except for bananas and unripe peaches- I might have a banana- even though there is also delicious cheese sitting in the fridge too just waiting to be enjoyed!! Until next tomorrow friends...

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Chugging Along

So what's the latest? Well, the grant was mailed yesterday! It was funny- I didn't expect to make any changes on it, but yesterday morning, I looked at it again and made some small changes. It is always such a happy feeling to march that yellow envelope to the post office and send it off. Hopefully, we will get some good news in a few months. I don't know when they look at grants next. Tomorrow, I need to get cracking on the next load of grants- there are quite a few that I have to work on.

In other news- the Sofft Shoes promo is on our website- check it out at www.projectsmile.org/events.htm. The shoe company set over an image that was banner shaped. Our web guy put it on our site, but it wasn't looking quite right. He suggested some changes and now it looks great. We started adding some photos of the bachelors/ettes that we are auctioning off too. The photos look great. We have another good looking group again! I asked our web guy to extend the purple background to the photo section and it really makes them pop. I love getting the photos on our site and the Sofft promo- it really makes me feel like things are coming together.

I was reaching out to new Anniversary event sponsors yesterday and also got another sponsor back who sponsored last year. I didn't get any commitments yet, but it takes time to hear back when you reach out to new sponsors. I did get commitments for two more silent auction items which is good.

Tomorrow, I have so much to do. I need to get back to work on calendar sponsors, reach out to schedule photo shoots, grant work, contact police/fire departments, date sponsors- I just read a news article about a new company that would be a perfect fit for our event, I'm going to email them tomorrow. I also need to work on gift certificates for the date couples and anniversary auction items. I'm in the early stages of working on a unique race event and there is a company that I'm going to get in touch with who can plan the event. This is a rather ambitious list for tomorrow, I don't know how much I will actually get to, but there is a ton to get done.

On that note, I'm off to eat a banana (I don't have too many fruit options in the house), write my list and then head to sleep. Until tomorrow...

Monday, May 23, 2011

More Grant Work

I can't believe it has been a week since I blogged! My last blog was about blogging and guess what I spent the majority of today doing- working on the same grant! My goal was to get it done and mailed last week, obviously that didn't happen. I didn't intend to spend most of the day doing this grant, but it took so much time. It isn't even that complicated. We're basically applying for the same program that they funded in 2006. I don't know if my grant skills are just a little rusty and that is why everything was moving slowly. Grants do take time though, even the simple ones. The good news is that the grant is finished. I printed the cover letter, but I haven't printed the grant out yet. I'm still in the staring at it mode. I stare at the grant for much longer than is probably needed- rereading it, making sure that I've answered the questions in the best way possible- keeping things succinct but still giving all the details needed, including the statistics, etc. I know I could print the grant out tonight, I have looked at it enough. But I think I will wait until morning and give it one last look. Then off to the mail! We will then have 3 grant applications which we will be waiting to hear from. There are two other grants that I need to start work on immediately too.

So what else is happening? I've been reaching out to new sponsors for the Anniversary Celebration. Last year, I didn't contact a lot of new sponsors, I basically worked from the same list as the year before. This year, I'm changing that and reaching out a lot of new local companies. The date auction sponsorship hunt is still in full force. I have been contacting a lot of new companies who I think would be a perfect fit. I don't have any new sponsors on board yet, but it does take time. Hopefully, I will have some more good news soon.

I need to get back to work on calendar sponsors. The good news is that one of the sponsors that I wasn't sure about- I wasn't thinking they would be back- are back on board! We also have a new sponsor which will take the place of one of the ones that definitely isn't coming back (they never paid us for last year's ad). Calendar photos start on Friday with our first pictures at Douglas Fire Dept. They are usually one of the first departments that we do. I need to start making calls tomorrow to set up photo shoots. I want to reach out to the local MOMS clubs too- it worked well last year having the kids from those groups featured.

Well friends, that's it for tonight. I did want to add that my heart goes out to the people in Missouri who were victims of the horrible tornadoes yesterday. I can't even imagine what that must be like. Hopefully, once things have calmed down, we can help in a small way and send some stuffed animals for the children there. It is so sad.
Until tomorrow....

Monday, May 16, 2011

Grant Work

Well today was a grant day. I spent most of the day working on a grant for a bank's charitable foundation. I didn't intend to spend most of the day working on it, but once I got started, I didn't want to stop. It was slow going though. It's not even that complicated a grant, but I haven't been doing that much grant writing lately and it always takes time to get back in the swing of things. We received a $2,500 grant from this foundation 5 years ago, so hopefully they will support us again. They don't list specific dates that they review grants, but I want to get it submitted this week.

Did I mention last week that we sent a box of stuffed animals, markers and games to Alabama for the children who lost their homes in those horrific tornadoes a few weeks ago? Our board member, Michelle, reached out to her Lia Sophia connections and through them, got in touch with a Church in Alabama that is organizing donations to local children who lost their homes. One of the people told Michelle that children were digging through the rubble searching for their possessions and toys. That is so sad. Michelle sent one box and we're planning on sending more. I was really glad that she was able to take the lead on that.

In other good news- we got two more bachelors signed up for the date auction. They are both members of the Coast Guard, stationed in Boston. We have another Coast Guard officer signed up already too, they will do a great job. No more news on the date auction sponsorship front, but I spoke with a company on Friday that I had met last week at the Stylefixx ladies shopping event. They would be a perfect fit for our date auction. I spoke with the regional director on the phone and emailed him the sponsor info. I haven't heard back yet, but hopefully I will soon. We're doing pretty well with gift certificate donations for the date auction couples and the silent auction.

Tomorrow, I'm off to Oxford Police department for a donation. I thought about mailing them, but I wanted to do a photograph and it is pretty costly to mail the boxes. I did mail three boxes on Friday to the Salem Police department though. It cost $27. It is cheaper to drive, but it also takes up a good portion of the day if it is a department that is further away.

Well friends, that's it for tonight. I want to finish reading Little Bee, write my list, then head to bed. I'm craving lemon meringue pie, but my brother finished off the last piece- I had my fork already in my hand and was walking over to the fridge, when I spotted the empty pie container on the counter- such disappointment! I went to sleep super late last night- I need to get that under control. It isn't even midnight yet, so I'm off to a good start. Until tomorrow friends...

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Tuesday's Happenings

Well, I wish I had some fascinating news to share- I don't. The odd thing was that I felt off my game when making phone calls. I was following up with donors for silent auction items for both our events and reaching out to new donors and potential sponsors. I wasn't doing anything particularly wrong when I was talking, but I noticed that I was stumbling a little when I spoke and just wasn't as sharp. Usually, I feel like I do well on the phone, I genuinely enjoy talking on the phone. I decided to take a break from phone calls until I could get back in the rhythm. Phone calls are so important, I can't afford not be on my A game. I came back to phone calls a couple of hours later and things were back to normal. Sometimes it really helps to take a break and not force an issue. I got commitments from Truro vineyards who are going to donate a tour/tasting again for the Anniversary Celebration and I also got a tour/tasting gift certificate from the Blue Hills Brewery for the silent auction at our Date Auction. I found them at the Wine Fest which we did a silent auction at recently. They make a fabulous watermelon beer which I sampled. I reached out to some new potential date auction sponsors too. I'm so glad that I met with that marketing panel a couple of months ago. I love the improvements that we made to our event sponsorship package based on their suggestions.

Tomorrow, I need to submit some photos of our bachelors/ettes for the date auction website. It is really early, but we only get an hour of web update time per month included in our fee, so I try to get things done gradually so we can make the best use of our time. Sofft sent over a new shoe image to use, so we can get that on our website and event flier too. I am so happy that they are on board for the event- they are such a huge part of its success.

Well, I think that's all I have for tonight. I know this was hardly the most fascinating blog post ever. I don't have interesting things to write about, but my mind seems to be going blank. I have to be up early tomorrow- I have a dentist appointment, then I'm doing a donation to the Fall River police department. It has been a while since we donated to that department. I loaded up my car tonight with stuffed animals. I still have to finish loading up the box of coloring books/crayons and reading books that we're donating too. I've been putting photos from our recent donations on our Project Smile Facebook page- so be sure to check them out! I already had my yogurt and pineapple- while watching one of my favorite shows, the Good Wife, so I'm going to write my list, read book and then go to bed at a decent hour- I did OK with that last night. Until tomorrow friends..

Monday, May 9, 2011

Shoe Story

Here is a cool story that happened tonight. I went to an event with a new social group called Dine Out Boston- they get together monthly at Boston restaurants for drinks/dinner. I read about it in an Urban Daddy email. I went with a couple of friends and decided to wear my favorite purple peep toe high heels that were given to me from Sofft Shoes for last year's Date Auction. I was in the bar area, chatting with people and I said hello to a young woman. She looked at my shoes and pointed out that she was wearing the exact same pair of shoes. She started to tell me where she got them when she stopped and looked at me, "I got them at your event", she said. She had bid on a date with one of our bachelors and won the shoes. It was so awesome to meet her at the event. It really is cool to be out in public and start chatting with someone and find out that they have been to your events. That feeling of excitement at the news never gets old. This was the first time I had seen someone wearing their shoes out in public. What a coincidence that I wore my shoes too! It was a little chilly earlier and I had originally dressed in black pants, but at the last minute, decided that I wanted to dress up a bit more and broke out the purple shoes and dress.

So what else is happening? Well, today I was mostly focused on getting calendar sponsors. I had started doing that last week, but this was the most time I had spent on it. I hadn't originally intended to spend so much time. But I got a call this morning from a past calendar sponsor that I had reached out to. Unfortunately, they are not able to sponsor this year. The market they work in has been slow lately and they can't afford the donation. They are a great company and they are very nice people, I definitely understand their decision. It was disappointing news to start of the morning, so by 10:15am, I was already feeling stressed. I decided that if I didn't immediately start working on getting other sponsors lined up for the calendar, I would just feel more stressed. I started making calls, sending emails, etc. I know that we definitely have two months which will be completely available, most likely three. This means that I need to get three new sponsors on board. I've been contacting the police and fire associations from the local departments that we donate to, particularly ones that haven't made donations to us in the past. This would be the perfect thing for them to sponsor. I don't have any positive news on that front yet, but I just started. I did get commitments from 2 returning sponsors today. We already have a couple of months taken care of which is good.

What else is happening? There is so much to write about, but I'm awfully tired. I went to bed obscenely late last night (isn't that a wonderful phrase!) and really should go straight to bed. I already turned off my work computer. I'm in the gray zone right now where part of me is really tired and the other part of me is starting to get a second wind. But it is 12:10 and I want to be a dedicated worker and go to bed early so I can feel inspired tomorrow morning and not curse myself for going to bed at 2:30 the night before. It wasn't like I was spending my time doing anything incredible last night- although I did find a rather cool event in Newport this August which I'm roping some friends into attending with me. Anyways friends, I'm off to write my list and head to bed, I might read for a few minutes since I'm starting to feel more awake. Until tomorrow...

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Small Pieces

Greetings. So what's new? Well, first of all- thank you to Chris for her encouraging comment on my blog from Monday. I was having a tough day and it was a help to read her nice words. Things are getting back- I don't have any fantastic news to report, but I'm back to working on the small pieces that lead to getting bigger things done. I have a larger goal with all my tasks, but if I focus on the big picture then it gets overwhelming very quickly. So I go back to what I have always done- break things into small pieces and take it one day at a time. Gradually, all the little pieces come together and progress gets made. It is a work life of baby steps, but that's how things get done. It also requires a lot of patience. I was thinking about things when I was driving to my monthly women's networking event tonight. Sometimes, dealing with work issues is like dealing with difficult personal issues. You can't focus on the big picture, you take things one day at a time- sometimes, just hour by hour. Even though I had my list this morning, I was starting to get overwhelmed (I think I need to write smaller lists), I looked at the clock on my computer and thought that I didn't need to worry about how much I got done by the end of the day, lets just focus on being productive for the next half hour. For the next couple of hours, I kept reminding myself that I just needed to think about being productive for the next half hour- I gradually fell into a good rhythm and got a lot done. I worked on a lot of tasks- following up with police departments, reaching out to new potential date auction sponsors, following up with people who signed up for the date auction, working on getting auction items, etc. I didn't get to grant writing which was on my list, but that is OK. I also have some emails that I need to respond to (what a surprise!). It really worked well for me today to not even think about the entire day- focusing instead on the smaller blocks of time and being productive for that specific time. I think I'm going to keep using this time management system. I have a red timer that I was supposed to use as part of the pomodoro time management system- you set the timer for half an hour, work very hard for the half hour, give yourself a less than 5 minute break, then back to work for the next half hour- it is actually close to what I was doing today.

I know this may sound a little trivial, but time management is such an important part of running a business. It is an important part of every job, but it becomes even more evident when you work by yourself and are completely responsible for every task that needs to be done. I've always been self motivated, but I can definitely get overwhelmed with enormity of what needs to be done and wreaks havoc with my getting through my to-do list. I'm happy with the system that I started today- I think it will be a big help in keeping me focused and not getting overwhelmed.

Well, that's it for tonight. I was on an office cleaning spree earlier and it is already after 1am. I'm going eat some yogurt and strawberries, then off to bed. Until next time friends...

Monday, May 2, 2011

Welcome May

Well, the first work day in May got off to a rocky start. I had a list of 14 items to work on, I got to less than half. There were a lot of frustrating things happening- I was working on date auction sponsors, but didn't get through to anyone. I spoke on the phone with a media company in Boston. I've tried to get them on board with the date auction for the past 3 years, they have donated a gift card each year, but never got more involved. This event is a perfect fit with them for a number of reasons. They declined it again this time and haven't even committed to donating a gift card. It is hard sometimes dealing with the rejection- in order to get the sponsors and donors that we do get for our events, I have to contact a ton of companies. Most companies do not donate. Obviously, I know that not every business can donate to every charity that asks, but that doesn't make it any easier when dealing with rejection. Even though it isn't personal when companies don't donate, it feels personal to me. When you start a business and you're so closely invested, every aspect of running that business is deeply personal.

By the time late afternoon rolled around, I was feeling rather frustrated. I wasn't even getting through to the people that I needed to speak with at the police departments that I followed up with. In good news though, Henrietta's Table in Cambridge is donating a gift certificate for a date auction couple to have dinner. I have heard so many good things about that restaurant. The Boston Atheneum also donated an annual membership for our silent auction.

It is so important to develop outside interests from work. I have a great social life and I already have a lot of other interests, but tonight I went for my first fencing class. I bought an introductory 4 lesson certificate on Living Social in January. I wanted to wait until the warmer weather came before I started. I was driving into the Sommerville tonight and felt so tired and rather stressed about work things. It was my very first time fencing and I loved it. I came home feeling happy and a lot more energetic. My brain even felt expanded. When you step outside of your normal activities and interests, it really does open up the brain- which in turns makes one a better worker. I was able to put my day into perspective. I love the challenge of fencing and I think it is something that I could be well suited to.

Well, that's it for tonight. It isn't even midnight and I'm ready to read for a bit and then head to bed. Part of my problem today was that I was tired too. I went to sleep crazy late last night because I couldn't stop watching the coverage of Bin Laden's death. When you're tired, it is a lot easier to become stressed about things. I'm also off to eat some more Easter jellybeans while I write my list. Until tomorrow friends...