Non-profit executive director skills require balance and hyperfocus.

I recently went on a quest to learn more about adult ADD.  My recent awareness came mid-blog, after taking an online assessment.  I took this quiz on Saturday Morning, and by Saturday night I was reading the book “Making ADD Work: On the job strategies for coping with Attention Deficit Disorder”.   I know that might seem a little extreme, or that I’m putting too much in an on-line survey.  What this did for me was give me some areas to focus on improving myself.

I’m single, in between relationships.  So self-assessment, self-improvement is a good focus.  It’s better than sitting home on a Saturday night depressed I don’t have a date!

I discovered hyperfocus.  I discovered that people with ADD, can do this well.  I remember being in high school and getting into a sewing project.  My whole family would have gone to bed hours before.  I would sit behind the sewing machine, not stopping until my dress was done.

I also realized that I do this when I work on our non-profit budgeting.  I clear my desk, I pull out the financial reports, my calculator and a notepad.  I review each line.  I compare what was budgeted to what was spent.  I know if we are 33%, 50% or 70% through the year, so I know where each item should be at.  I make notes on where we are up or down.  I project what needs to be spent.  I work backwards, making sure what we spent divided by the month we are in (June – 6) and see if that matches our bank statements.  This lets me know we are consistent and on track with what I anticipate will be spent in future months.

I love paying attention to our money.  I am proud of my money management for our non-profit.  It doesn’t always appear that way to other people.  When I get a question about the budget, I can’t always articulate how I know the answer.  I can’t always find the way to explain it.  People with ADD can think on 5 different levels at once.  I have all these ways I know the answer and I can’t get them from the picture in my mind, to a articulate sentence.  I don’t like feedback about budgeting or money management not being my strength.  I have to be careful not to get defensive about it.

My track record is good, I inherited the program mid-year and we were headed for a serious loss, I landed us with a much lower deficit.  I ran the next few years with carry-over to help build reserve funds.  Despite a board approved budget to end the year -26,000, I am working to see we break even, its likely we may have a small carryover.  People seem to judge my skills on my moment to moment ability to answer questions.  I guess another person wouldn’t know my budget history, only one of our board members has been with me all 5 years.

So I balance.  Ask me a question about Restorative Justice – I am as articulate and precise as a brain surgeon.  I balance working on the non-profit image, with knowing the financials.  I balance leading-up efforts with the board, to being led and letting the voice and input of board members enhance our program (honestly, sometimes I have to really try at that). 

You have to balance and balance and balance as a nonprofit leader.

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