Advancement work regularly requires our best creativity. Whether we are devising cultivation strategies for key major donor prospects, writing direct response solicitations, or designing case statements and campaign videos, each of us has to engage the most creative elements of ourselves consistently.
The problem, though, is that we tend to think of creativity incorrectly. We believe creativity is something that strikes unexpectedly (like lightning). Or we believe creativity is an in-born characteristic – something that one either has or doesn’t have. Or, we view creativity as the process of putting forth something completely new. But all of these beliefs are inaccurate.
The first two views encourage us to believe that there really isn’t much we can do to enhance our own creativity – we either have it (or get it) or we don’t. The third idea – that being creativity means putting forth something completely new – discourages us because it makes the creative process seem so capacious. How in the world can I make something truly new? That job is just too big. So, I don’t even try.
The reality, though, is that creativity can be nurtured and cultivated. And here are three simple ways for you to enhance your creativity:
- Read Something That Stretches You – I’m not talking a magazine or a newspaper or a book of fiction. I’m talking about a book of interesting ideas, a biography of an important historical figure, or an academic book in which you learn something new. The truly creative person doesn’t create “new” ideas or things, they are inspired by what they learn, see, and experience and put together old ideas or techniques in fresh ways. When we expose ourselves to new perspectives and experiences – and good books make this easy to do – we give our creative minds the fuel to operate.
- Go Green – Do you have live plants in your office or cubicle? Can you see trees out your window? Research has repeatedly shown that having a potted plant or two near where you work increases creativity – by as much as 15%! And if you can get outside more often the results are even more impressive. We were designed to experience our natural environments, not simply sit behind our desks in sterile office settings. So, get some real plant life in your environment. And just so you know, fake plants don’t offer the same increase in creativity.
- Use Your Best Time – For most of us, our first order of official business each day is to sit at our computers and answer our emails. As Seth Godin wrote recently, we are surrendering some of our best, most creative, and freshest time of the day to be reactive and not proactive. Instead of doing something reactive when you first start your work day, use this precious time to work on that project that needs your best creativity. When we are fresh, we give ourselves our best opportunity to be creative.
In our work as advancement professionals, we need to be more creative more often. We need to be entrepreneurial and imaginative. But being creative doesn’t have to be daunting. By implementing these 3 simple ideas, you will give yourself the opportunities to be at your creative best.