Three women sitting on couch looking at laptop

Supporting Small Shops While Balancing it all: Chatting with Cindy Wagman

by | April 28, 2020

10 min read

Congratulations, you’ve managed another couple of weeks of social distancing, while, I’m sure, still struggling to find balance, have productive workdays, and spend time with your family.

Today, I’m very excited to share my conversation with Cindy Wagman, President & CEO of The Good Partnership, mother of two boys Lennox 8, and Jasper 5, and active volunteer with the Rotman School of Management. From my first conversation with Cindy, I have been struck by her openness, willingness to help others, and desire to truly help small organizations navigate fundraising success. The Good Partnership’s Podcast, The Small Nonprofit, has been a go-to resource for me as I’ve built my business and navigated my way through helping small organizations.

If you’ve ever met Cindy, I think you would also realize that she is very much focused on productivity and the best ways to get things done the most efficiently. From The Good Partnership’s strict e-mail policy, to the way she manages her calendar, she is always willing to share tips to improve productivity.

Of course, this conversation also includes some great feedback from Cindy on how we can continue to navigate fundraising in these trying times.

1. Briefly tell me about a day in the life of Cindy Wagman:

I start by waking up and meeting some friends for a run. There are usually 4 of us that go together at 6:15am and it is such an important part of my mornings. I really rely on friends for accountability, because otherwise I’m extremely lazy.

My husband and I have come up with a good routine around dividing roles and responsibilities for the kids and general housework, so I feel that the mornings are pretty well managed. Although, that also depends on the kids’ moods.

Everyday at the office (or home office) is a little different. Because I do all our business development and marketing, a lot of my time is spent on that. I would say that 70 – 80% of my time is spent talking to other people. I try to carve out a day or so a week to actually do my own work.

Dinner in our house is a bit of a shit show – so we feed the kids something easy. Once the kids are asleep, I’m pretty much done for the day – and can’t do anything meaningful or of substance once they’re asleep.

2. And how has your routine and workflow changed with social distancing and coronavirus?

As soon as people started shutting things down, our staff all started working from home. We have flexible work arrangements, so that part was very easy for us. My biggest concern is trying to parent full time and work full time. My husband also has a lot of work right now in crisis management so we’re both trying to just get by day by day.

We’re also focusing on how we can be good role models to our kids right now. I’m very aware of how we involve them in supporting others and being considerate and helpful. To me, that is the most important learning that they can take away from this.

More specifically, it was a major shift in my calendar. I’ve made sure I’ve carved out times to focus on my family and my sons’ needs; we journal as a family in the morning, I make sure I’m available and have time cleared to work on school work with them and have lunch with them, and typically my days are ending a little bit earlier.

In terms of my workflow, we’ve shifted our focus at The Good Partnership. We are obviously still supporting our clients and helping them navigate new fundraising challenges, but I’ve also set aside time every afternoon to offer free, and pitch-free, coaching calls with small non-profits who need help pivoting and shifting their fundraising priorities in this crisis.

At The Good Partnership we very intentionally focus on having an abundance mindset, and very quickly asked ourselves “what do we have that we can contribute to help others?”, which is where the idea of free coaching came from during this crisis.

3. Yes, I love all the great things The Good Partnership does to help our fundraising community. I know you also recently launched Flipside Fundraising Scholarships to help charities who need access to learning right now. Can you tell me about that?

We’ve always planned on launching scholarships, to help organizations access the program who typically wouldn’t have a professional development budget to invest in coaching and training like this.

When all the changes with social distancing first hit, we contemplated cancelling our Flipside Fundraising session, but realized now more than ever people need access to training and resources. Luckily, we were able to pivot quite quickly, rally a great group of sponsors to support the scholarships, and offer a full slate of scholarships for our upcoming session.

4. The scholarships were such a great initiative and I was grateful to be part of them. The Good Partnership focuses your work on helping small charities fundraise, and I see a lot of these organizations struggling right now. What have you seen with the organization you work with and what tips can you share?

We’ve obviously had to focus on pivoting with our clients, but still focusing on making sure they are fundraising in a meaningful way. We’ve been encouraging our clients to ensure they reach out to their funders, explain how the situation has impacted their current programs, and many funders have been very receptive and supportive to helping how they can.

We’ve also had to work to convert event donors into regular donors as events have been cancelled.

Luckily, our team has been able to lean into what we already do, we are used to working remotely, and are able to be quick on our feet to ensure the best outcomes for our clients.

5. One of the many things I love about the work you do at The Good Partnership, is how intentional you are about work-life balance, checking e-mails, and a clear focus on productivity. What tips would you share with to help create balance in their workdays and prioritize tasks? I know you’ve mentioned above how you block out time in your calendar (which is a tip I’ve found extremely helpful, especially right now as I balance having my kids home with me).

I love the idea of focusing on what’s important. I know what strengths I have and what other members of my team have, so we try to divide up tasks according to that. I also block out time on my calendar so that I have time to work on the things I need to do, otherwise they’d never get done.

At the beginning, I would spend a lot more time working, but now I’m pretty stable with a 8-5 schedule and am much more present with my family on the evenings and weekends.

And obviously in the current climate, I have more time blocked out to focus on family, schoolwork with the kids, and giving back to the community.

6. As a business owner you innately have more flexibility in your days, can you talk about the transition from the traditional work environment to entrepreneurship and how this has shaped your work-life balance (or blend)?

While I have more flexibility, I also work harder than I ever have, because I love what I do, and I love the company we’re building. That said, if my kids win an award at school, I can be there for the assembly. I’ve gone on class field trips and other fun things that would never have crossed my mind in the past.

Now, having my kids at home from school, I’m very grateful for this flexibility, but have had to adapt and shift my calendar to ensure I’m meeting the needs of my family, clients, and team at The Good Partnership.

7. Not only are you a business owner, but you are an employer. How do you encourage your staff to balance all their life’s priorities and what have you learned by implementing intentionality around creating balance for your staff?

We all have flex schedules and I try to be aware of the ups and downs, so that I encourage people to take time off when they can. We never monitor people’s hours and I don’t ask where someone is if they aren’t available at any given time.

8. What do you struggle with the most in terms of finding a balance? And how do you try to manage this?

I have a hard time turning work off. I’m getting better at it and I’m learning to delegate more. I’m also trying to focus on one or two big things at a time and not try to do everything. I have lots of ideas and I like to move quickly, but if we try to do everything, we won’t do anything well.

9. Overall, how do you think the social profit sector is doing in terms of creating a work-life blend culture? (I think you have a unique perspective here as you work with so many small organizations who are notoriously overworked and underfunded.)

I think most organizations suck at it, I’m sad to say. One of the reasons we’ve created the structure and environment we did at The Good Partnership is because I’ve worked so many jobs that have terrible balance and unrealistic expectations on staff. While some of our clients have embraced technology and flexible work, we see so many organizations that still count bums in chairs. I think it will be interesting to see how that changes in a very quick period of time right now. One of the things holding organizations back has been technology and now they don’t have a choice.

10. In your opinion, what are the top 3 things our sector needs to do to help empower working parents as leaders?

  1. Focus on results, not hours.
  2. Invest in technology for flexible work and meaningful collaboration.

That’s it – I think those two would make a huge difference.

11. What is on your current reading list?

I listen to books now because it’s just easier with everything else going on. I’m just about to start Marketing Made Simple by Donald Miller, because his book Building a Story Brand is one of my absolute favorites.

12. And lastly, when you do manage to find a few moments for yourself, what is your go to self-care activity?

I see self-care as a habit, not a luxury. My regular exercise is not my favorite thing to do, but it is the most important to my self-care. I also love a good nap on the weekend. For me, self care is also about going to bed at a reasonable time and getting a good sleep. I started seeing a naturopath this past year and that’s really helped me support my body and stress response through supplements.

I hope you found my conversation with Cindy as helpful as I did, she has a great handle on how to balance work and family, even during these difficult times. If you’re still finding yourself struggling with navigating balance, please feel free to reach out to me or Cindy. In addition, if you are a small shop and need to access The Good Partnerships pitch-free 30-minute coaching calls feel free to reach out to Cindy.

Thank you for all you are doing in your communities right now. Please stay safe, stay in touch, and stay tuned for upcoming blog posts.

Lacey Kempinski

Lacey Kempinski

Lacey Kempinski is the Founder of Balanced Good. Driven by her desire to help other working parents and women find balance while finding her own balance, she gets that the struggle is real. As a mom of three young children, a seasoned fundraising professional, and a newly self-described feminist leader, she know the social profit sector can do better.

Learn more about Lacey Kempinski

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