Thursday, May 31, 2012

Inching Along

Sometimes, I feel like a turtle- every day inching along, ever so slowly towards my goals. It is all about the small steps that lead to bigger things happening. Today was another day of inches. This morning, I did our donation to Norfolk PD, our 173rd department to partner with. Then I zoomed back to work on our anniversary celebration, summer fashion show fundraiser at the Northshore mall and the date auction. I was following up on donors that I had reached out to before for auction items, but hadn't heard back. I can't over estimate how important it is to keep following up. One of the women that I had been trying to reach no longer works for the company, so I was given a new contact person that I reached out to. I spoke with another previous donor that I had emailed a few weeks ago but hadn't heard back from and she is going to donate a gift basket for the auction. Some of the businesses that I followed up with last week mailed in their gift certificates this week. It really is crucial to keep following up. If I didn't always follow up, we would have less than half the auction items for our anniversary celebration than we usually do.

There was a local attraction that I had tried to get a gift cert. from a few times over the years, but never got any response. I was googling a local fire department's phone number, when the phone number for this attraction popped up- I didn't know it had changed its name, I'm assuming it has a different owner. I decided to give it another shot and called and spoke with the owner. She was very nice and happily agreed to donate a gift certificate. She also wants to get her company involved with Project Smile.

Here is a photo from our donation today to Norfolk PD. I need to stop wearing the same outfit for my donations! I have so many photos from donations where I'm wearing the same outfit- usually black pants and my favorite short sleeve black dress shirts. Now, I wearing this dress in all my recent donation photos-  I really don't wear it every day!

In grant news- I haven't heard back from the big grant that we applied for in early April. I'm getting a little worried. I'm sure they get a lot of applications, so it must take them a long time to review, but we are almost at the two month point. They funded us 4 years ago, so there has been past support for our work. I'm keeping my fingers crossed. We really need this grant to stay on track. I still haven't done anymore grant work this week. It is a priority, so I need to stop pushing it down the list every day.

Well, that's the latest for tonight. I'm off to have my second peach of the season- I already had watermelon tonight. Summer fruit is one of the best things in life- peaches, watermelon, blueberries, melons, grapes, cherries- there is much delicious fruit! Until next time friends...

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Wrapping Up May

How is May coming to an end already? It felt like it just began and I am not ready for June yet- I need an extra week at least. Can someone make that happen please?

So what's the latest? Well, I scheduled a donation next week to the state police. It has been a while since we've donated there and I'm looking forward to it. Tomorrow, I'm donating to our 173rd department- Norfolk Police. I need to buy coloring books because I'm running out. Next week, we will be donating to our 174th department: Millville PD. They are both small departments which are close by.

I'm making progress on scheduling photo shoots for our 2013 calendar. It feels funny to write 2013- it seems like it should be so far away. I have two photo shoots scheduled for next Wednesday and I've reached out to other people to set up more dates. Hopefully, I'll have those dates soon. Tomorrow, I need to make more phone calls. I want to expand the calendar to include more children, so if any one reading has children and would like to have them participate in the calendar, let me know! I'm going to be reaching out to some different groups to invite them to have their kids participate.

Yesterday was a strange day, I woke up at 4:45am with stomach bug symptoms- I fell back asleep hours later, but jolted myself out of bed a half hour before a work call that I needed to make. I checked my email first and saw that the person asked to move the call to later that morning. I thought about going back to bed because I still didn't feel very well, but decided to be a little productive while waiting to make the call. My stomach bug symptoms decreased, and although I still didn't feel great, I ended up having a very productive day. I think I was really productive because I took all the pressure off myself and gave myself permission to work slowly without worrying about all the other things I was supposed to get done. I didn't work on challenging things like grants or contacting new sponsors, but I got a bunch of smaller tasks done.

We have a new sponsor on board for the date auction which is exciting. We are 75% of the way to our sponsorship goal which is a relief. I've been focusing now on getting bachelors/ettes to participate in the date auction. I'm going to be partnering with an organization for the date auction that I'll be able to help recruit some singles from. I have people who have said that they could get people to participate, so I need to follow up with them to get the actual contact info for potential participants.

Well, that's the latest for tonight. I'm home tonight and caught up on a few things, now I'm off to read some more of the second Hunger Games book and eat some watermelon. It may not be as healthy as grapefruit, but it is so delicious! Until tomorrow friends...

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Partial Progress

Well, I think I over estimate how long it takes to get things done. I wrote a long list last night and was feeling very motivated, but I only got to about half the items on the list. I didn't get to any grant work which I really need to. The good news is that my first calendar photo shoot is scheduled for early June in Attleboro with a moms group. I had children from that group in the calendar last year and the photos came out great. It always feels good to start scheduling photo shoots.

Our donation to Southborough PD went well this morning. We've donated to them before and they were happy to get more items. Here is a photo from the donation. The chief is a woman, I think she is the first woman police chief that I've met. She was very pleasant.
In good news, Emily Riemer, the anchor/reporter from Channel 5 News Boston is going to be hosting our Smiling Stiletto Fall into Fashion Show fundraiser this October in Copley Place. I'm excited to have her on board. I think she'll do a great job. I love having news reporters involved in our events. They are very reliable, well known in the community and they do a really good job- a perfect combination.

I did work on date auction and anniversary event sponsors. I reached out to a local sponsor that had been involved in a small way a couple of years ago, I'm hoping that they can increase their support this year. I've also been speaking with a new sponsor for the Date Auction who said they would like to sponsor. Hopefully, I should have more details soon.

Well, that's the latest for tonight. I'm off to eat the last grapefruit which I've been saving and then reading some more of the next Hunger Games book. Until tomorrow friends...

Busy Week

I can't believe how quickly May is going. I'm getting nervous too because there is so much to get done, particularly for our fall events. I know that I panic like this every time and things work out, but that doesn't make the panic go away. I have a few bachelors/ettes who have signed up to do the date auction, but only a couple have sent me their info. Until they send their info in, it doesn't really count. We always end up with a wait list for people wanting to participate, but it gets nerve wracking because it takes a while to get things going.

This week, I need to work on calendar sponsors and grant writing. Things are moving fairly well with calendar sponsorship, but there is definitely one month that will need a new sponsor. One of the sponsors is no longer in business. There is a grant that I would like to get done this week. I'd also like to be at least half way through for calendar sponsors by the end of the week.

Today, I did a follow up donation to Auburn Police. They thought that I was also there to do the calendar photos as well. Auburn has been in the calendar a several times, but the last time was a few years ago. I wasn't prepared to do calendar photos- I didn't have the right camera with me. They were so enthused about getting the cruisers out and officers lined up for a good photo. One of the sergeants that helped recruit officers to participate said that my calendar photo was one of the best department photos that he had. He gave a copy of the photo to someone as a gift. Another of the officers who was in the calendar years ago with his young son, said that his son still keeps the calendar on his wall, turned to his month. It is great to hear things like that. I wish I heard it more often. I really enjoyed my visit to Auburn- they have a very friendly police department.

Tomorrow morning, I'm doing another donation to Southborough  Police, then zooming back to do grant work, contact more departments, calendar sponsors, event sponsors and auction items. Basically, I need to work on everything tomorrow. The big holiday weekend and summer kick-off is coming this weekend and I want to get everything in a good place for Friday. That translates into making progress on every front. On that note, I'm off to bed. I was going to send some emails, but I'm getting tired. Please wish me a Polly Productive day tomorrow (and the rest of the week). Until tomorrow friends...

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Chugging Along

Today and yesterday were one of those days were one chugs along quietly, working on a bunch of different tasks. I don't have any earth shattering exciting news to share, I wish I did, but things are moving along fairly well. I have donations to two police departments scheduled for next week. They are both departments that we've donated to in the past. I am technically done with the grant that I have been working on. I could have mailed it today, but I wanted to stare at it some more. I actually did make some small changes to it today, so there definitely is an advantage to my grant staring procedure. I don't know if there is something else that I'm missing in the grant, because there was something that made me decide not to mail it today and it wasn't my not wanting to go to the post office. I'm going to take one more look at it tomorrow and then mail it.

I got a great new woman signed up for our date auction which I'm really excited about and it looks like she will be able to get her company to be involved as well, so that is really good. I was disappointed to find out that the marketing director at one of our biggest date auction sponsors has left the company. I've been working with her for years and she was always so pleasant and great to work with. There are certain people that one always looks forward to emailing in business and Nicole was one of them. The good thing is that she had already introduced me to one of her coworkers and the coworker has now taken her position. She seems really nice too and we are moving forward on the sponsorship that they had committed to. I've noticed that certain companies seem to employ really pleasant people that are great to work across the board with, while other companies seem to employ people that are universally difficult. Thankfully, this company has been great to work with.

Well, there is lots more to write about, but I am tired. I had a Smiling Stiletto event tonight which was a lot of fun, but now I'm ready to head to bed soon. I came home and devoured leftover ravioli, now I'm off to have my yogurt and pineapple. I'm supposed to go to a large networking event at the Comcast Center tomorrow, but I also feel like I need a night at home to relax and catch up on things. I should go to the networking event though. I particularly want to get more sponsors for our big fall events. Until tomorrow friends...

Monday, May 14, 2012

Resolution and Email

Well, I'm happy to announce that the event issue that came up last week has been resolved. It is important to always remain positive when communicating. It is important to be able to compromise, but also know when to hold the line. When you're holding your line on something, still remain positive and upbeat, even when dealing with people whose communication style can be abrasive. In this issue, I held the line, gave my reasons and offered a positive solution. The other party didn't take my offer and instead decided to no longer seek the change they had been wanting to make for the event. Even in a negative situation, one should respond in a positive manner. You don't want to tell someone what you can't do- no one needs to hear that. You can tell someone that you're not comfortable with something and then offer a positive solution. I'm not perfect at communicating, but I do make an effort to always be positive. I frequently find my self smiling when I'm writing my emails and I find that I'm almost always smiling when I'm making phone calls. A smile definitely comes through on the phone- your voice can't help but be upbeat and friendly when you're smiling. I think a smile also comes through, although to a lesser extent, via email.

Email can be a difficult communication tool when it comes to tone. I know a number of people who are friendly in person and on the phone, but when it comes to email the tone can be unmistakably obnoxious. I don't understand why that happens. I've learned not to take it personally from people that I know, but it is still a little baffling. I used to think that it happened because people are in rush when they emailed, but I think it is a bit more than that. Before I send an email, I usually double check to make sure it is concise- no one needs to read a paragraph when two sentences are sufficient. In situations that are sensitive or dealing with issues that need resolved, I make a particular effort to make sure to make sure that my tone is positive. Never respond to an annoying email immediately- that is a recipe for disaster. The good thing about email is that the person is not in front of you- they don't need an immediate response. Even if they do need a quick response, you can still take a few minutes to calm down and compose a pleasant reply.

Well, that's enough on that topic. Today, we donated to our 172 department- North Attleboro Police. They have the most beautiful police station that I've been in and I have been in a lot of stations. It is in a renovated jewelry manufacturing business that was over 100 years old. They kept the old look with the beautiful brick, but gave it a beautiful modern interior with lots of glass and a bright open feeling. It looked like it could be a high end office building. Even the outside was well landscaped. I was so impressed.  Here is a photo from today's donation. I should have done the photo so you can see the inside of the building.
Well, that's the latest for tonight. I was so hungry when I came home that I already had my yogurt, pineapple and strawberries. When I was driving, I felt very inspired about all the work I was going to do when I got home, but now my energy is melting away. I started the next book in the Hunger Games series, so I'm going to read that for a bit and write my lengthy list for tomorrow. There is so much that I need to get done, including finishing that grant I've been working on and getting it mailed. Until tomorrow friends...

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Polly Progress

So what's the latest? Well, I'm happy to announce that I made progress on my latest grant today. We asking for continued funding for our program- we received a $4,000 grant a couple of years ago. I'm having trouble trying to add new information to the grant. Their grant application hasn't changed and our program hasn't changed since we last applied- aside from the number of departments/shelters that we've donated to. I've updated the statistical information, but I feel like I'm supposed to change other things too. I am including new letters of support from some of the departments that we partner with. Those letters are very important to include in our grant applications. I think I need to stop worrying about adding new information to the grant itself. The most important thing is to answer the application questions clearly and concisely and include the letters. Hopefully, they will continue to support our work.

I've been working on recruiting bachelors/ettes for the date auction. I have a few people signed up so far which is great and I have a bunch of others that have said they wanted to do it, but haven't sent in their info yet. I'm also reaching out to people who have helped recruit in the past. It always starts out slow recruiting bachelors/ettes- I get so anxious about the process, but then I end up with a waiting list. I need to keep remembering that when I start freaking out.

I've been dealing with some stressful things these last few days. There is an issue that has arose about an event that we're working on. I didn't foresee this issue and so far it hasn't been resolved. Hopefully, we can work it out, but I'm not sure what is going to happen. Events can be very difficult to work on- they involve so many people and it can be hard to negotiate between all the competing needs. People also communicate in styles that can be difficult to work with at times.

In other news, our email newsletter went out today- finally! It looks great. I always open it and read it as if I was an outsider. I think it is a good newsletter. It has relevant, short articles, one good photo and links to other info. It also has a 'Smile section' which gives a piece of information- either trivia, a recipe or other interesting/fun news that would be of interest to our supporters. I get newsletters from other organizations and some of them are so long that I don't read them. I saw a newsletter recently from the United Regional's YPO organization and I loved it because it was short and simple. I like newsletters that I can read quickly.

Well, that's the latest for tonight. I'm off to finish reading Hunger Games and eat some left over cake. I hosted my friend's baby shower over the weekend and I've been enjoying the left over cake. It is from my favorite place- Konditor Meister. They have cakes that are gorgeous and delicious. Until tomorrow friends...

Friday, May 4, 2012

Thursday Happenings

Well, I almost headed to bed without blogging- but it didn't feel right to skip blogging, so here I am! So what's new? Well, I've been on an office cleaning spree for the last 2 hours. The office is looking better. It is amazing how papers pile up. I got rid of a bunch of papers that I don't need anymore which freed up some space. I was also catching up on thank you notes to people who have sent us stuffed animal donations.

Our donation of stuffed animals, books and coloring books/crayons to Wrentham PD went well today. I forgot my camera, so I used my i-phone, that's why the picture is dark. I always like to get photos from our donations, so we can share them our supporters and show everyone what we are doing.

I did even less work on the grant today, all I did was look at it while drinking my tea this morning. I was going to work on it, but then I got wrapped up with event work and then headed out to our Wrentham donation and didn't get work on it when I got back. We got another sponsor back on board for the Anniversary Celebration. This sponsor had donated in the past for the event, but they didn't sponsor last year. I'm glad that they are back.

Tomorrow, I'm donating to Brookline PD, which will be our 171st department to work with. I remember back when we were working with only 30 departments- it is pretty amazing that we're onto 171 now. After Brookline, I'm stopping in Braintree to meet the sports dealer and return the auction items from Wine Fest that didn't sell and the stands that I borrowed. My goal is also to make some actual progress on the grant tomorrow and contact some more departments and work on event sponsors.

Well, that's the latest for tonight. I'm glad that I blogged, even though I didn't have anything fascinating to share, it is always feels good to write about what's happening at Project Smile. Now, I'm off to eat my pineapple and yogurt. I'm also tempted to watch another episode of Wallander- it is a BBC mystery series which is really good. I have to return the DVD to the library tomorrow, but didn't get to watch all of the episodes. However, it is after midnight and the episode is 2 hours long and I don't want to do another 2am bedtime and I have a lot to do tomorrow- so I will be good and not watch. I will just have to borrow it again. Until next time friends...

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Chugging Along

So what's the latest? Well, the last few days have been up and down. There haven't been any major dramas like the credit card debacle, but today was a little frustrating in dealing with certain people who I reached out to for auction item donations. Now, a lot of people are great- TV Diner is helping us again with donating a Diner for a Day certificate which is a huge auction item. The certificate provides for two people to have dinner at a restaurant, be filmed during the dinner and then head back to the studio where they are on the Billy Costa show talking about their dining experience- it is awesome! I've been working with one of the producers there for years and he is such a helpful and nice person. We've never met, but when I opened his email right after I opened an email from someone else who was rather unhelpful and I wished I could give the producer a hug right then.

One of the things that was really frustrating today was that I had reached out to a particular business that I've been bringing large groups into on a regular basis- I had booked my next group event with them and asked for a gift certificate donation for the charity event. I got an email this morning from my contact saying they wouldn't be able to donate. It was so disappointing. I understand that businesses can't donate to every charity that asks, but one would think that preference would be given to someone who brings in a large group of people during the week on a regular basis and only asks for a gift card donation once per year. It really surprised me that they wouldn't donate. It is making me rethink bringing anymore groups to that venue. I emailed someone else who works for the same company that owns this business, so hopefully they will be more responsive. I always support businesses that are supportive of Project Smile.

So what else is going on? Well, I'm happy to announce that I wrote my May newsletter! I wanted to give myself a round of applause for actually getting it done. I decided to write it yesterday, because honestly, I didn't want to keep staring at it on my daily to-do list. I've sent it to Lisa to format it, she should have it done soon and then it can head to our web host to send out. I really need to do it monthly- it is important to stay in touch with our sponsors. Maybe if I commit to writing it at the beginning of every month, I won't keep putting it off until the month is over.

I started what could barely qualify as grant work today- does it qualify as working on a grant when all you do is read the grant, print it out and fill out the contact info? I did think about the answers, but I don't think that any of that actually qualifies as grant work. Tomorrow, I will do some actual grant work. I'm also doing a donation to Wrentham PD tomorrow afternoon. It is a bit a while since we donated to that department.

Well, there is lots more to write about, but I'm heading to bed. I've been going to bed way too late for the last couple of nights- after 2am, so I need to get back on track. I was doing really well with getting to bed at a decent hour, but it is so easy to get off the wagon. I'm off to eat my pineapple and yogurt- or I might have one of the last two grapefruits in the fridge. Grapefruit season is pretty much over. Their price has gone up and they don't taste as good as they usually do. I've been saving my last remaining grapefruits. It is a little silly to save them since one can obviously buy them year round in the store- but I will be moving on to other fruit. Until tomorrow friends...

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Nightmare and a Happy Ending

Well, on Saturday night, my credit card machine nightmare that I had been dreading for the past 5 years came true. Let me back up for a minute. When I take my credit card machine to events, I use it in a store/forward mode which means that all the credit card info gets stored in the machine and when I get access to a phone line, I then process all the transactions. There is a risk that a card can be declined- it has happened before occasionally, but it always resolved quickly. This machine that I have now is new and Saturday was my first time taking it to an event. I had practiced with it and everything seemed to be working perfectly. I did two silent auctions at Wine Fest all afternoon and evening. I got an assortment of sports memorabilia from a dealer that I've worked with for years. Driving home, I was my usual anxious self about processing the credit cards. I can never truly relax after an event until I get the credit card info uploaded and it prints out the receipt. Now, there are two steps to processing the cards when I get to the phone line. In the first step, all the cards are authorized- this step went through without a problem. 15 transactions for a total of approx $2,700. In the second step, it is called settling the batch. This failed. I tried it again and it failed again. You can't imagine how I felt- it was my credit card nightmare coming true. My stomach twisted and I could feel my blood running cold. I immediately called the credit card processing company. At first, the rep was not very helpful- he said there must be a problem with one of the cards that I had swiped and that was why it wouldn't balance out when it tried to settle. I was lost- I was new to the machine, but the slip that printed out showed each transaction as being authorized. I wasn't crying yet, but inside I was heading into a panic. The rep put me on hold and when he came back, he was much more helpful, although he couldn't resolve the situation that night, he told me to call back in the morning to speak to someone else. He said that they could see that the credit cards had been authorized (which is very important), so that I would be able to get my money, but I needed to call back in the morning to speak to someone else who might be able to get the machine working properly. If they couldn't do that, then he said they would have to send me all the credit card info for each person's purchase and I would have to manually enter the info. They would also need to reprogram my machine. I got off the phone feeling better since he said that I would get my money, but I was still stressed.

I called back as soon as I woke up in the morning. The new rep walked me through reprogramming the machine and then said that they would be sending me the credit card info for each person and I would have to manually enter it into the machine. The credit card info came this morning via an encrypted email. I actually deleted the email when I first saw it because I thought it was spam. Right after I deleted it, I went to the trash folder and opened it again- after it dawned on me what it could be. The rep had said that I might not get the info until Tuesday, so I wasn't expecting it so soon. It took a few minutes to go through all the security to gain access and then I had to manually enter all the info which was stressful. I didn't want to make any mistakes. Thankfully, it was only 13 transactions- if it had been a big event like the date auction, that would have been a lot worse. I settled the batch and it went through. I noticed that one of the transactions was missing from the list that they sent me, so I called the company to find out about the missing transaction and to make sure everything went through. It turned out that the company settled the last transaction when I had processed it on Saturday night- since they did that, I don't know why they couldn't settle the other 13 transactions instead of my having to input all the info in again. The good news is that by 11:30am everything was all set- our money will be on its way to our bank account within a few days. It was so stressful though. Almost half of the $2,700 goes to the dealer for the items that we got for the auction. So not only could I have potentially lost the $1,400 in profit, but I would have been on the hook for $1,300 for the auction items.

Well, it is after 1am and I need to get to bed. I just wanted to share my drama with you- it was quite nerve wracking, but the main thing is that everything is fine and this problem should not occur again. There is lots more to write about, but that was one of the dominating things of the last couple of days. Until tomorrow friends...