The Dog Ate My Homework

Dec 06, 2023

Anybody, besides me, have a Doctorate Degree from MSU University? My ah-mazing leadership coach, Erin, taught me and a group of some awesome local leaders all about this credential last week. 

MSU stands for Making Stuff Up! As in, your mind goes hog wild and exaggerates situations, assuming you said or did the wrong thing. Your imagination paints such a dramatic picture that you are certain said actions made the other parties think negatively about you.  Wow!  Just when you think you’re not creative, your brain sure does go into overdrive concocting such vivid dramas! It’s mental torture.

Making Things Up Quotes. QuotesGram

Yep, I’m guilty. So guilty that I know I’d have more than an Associate’s or Bachelor’s Degree. But I’m getting better at it. Or at least I thought I was until last month…when it happened. It was a silly occurrence. Literally, the dog ate my homework. I kid you not.

I was thrilled to be invited to speak to the Northeast Indiana Association of Fundraising Professionals for their National Philanthropy Day event.  There was an incredible crowd of 300-400 people in attendance. And these people were cool—seriously, an entire crowd of big-hearted, impact-minded fundraisers!  I mean, those are my people!  I love those kinds of people, don’t you!?

Grey's | Illustrated words, Words matter, Wonderful words

So, I prepped a keynote speech to encourage that group of nonprofit unicorns. The goal was to have them all leave feeling proud of the work they do, who they do it with, and why they do it at all.  Ideas were shared with permission to steal freely. Stories were revealed to remind them why we love our donors so much. And some of my favorite authors were harkened to hit the points home.

Literally, every minute behind the podium was an honor to me because I respect fundraisers so much! Therefore, when I received a standing ovation, my eyes welled up. I tell you this because THAT was the last impression I wanted them to have of me...not the story I'm about to tell you. But you can see how the entire experience was so humbling and when I left that remarkable venue in Fort Wayne, Indiana with my cup filled by these difference-makers. Here I am, nearly a month away from that day and I’m still on Cloud 9 from the experience.

To deepen the meaning, my colleague Mary had invited me to deliver the talk. I genuinely love Mary’s organization, Stillwater Hospice. Mary was introduced to me by Monica, her colleague and an office fave at the Community Foundation of Grant County. We always say Monica looks exactly like Rachel from Friends…yeah, she’s smart and beautiful! Needless to say, I wanted to make Stillwater and my Stillwater colleagues look good via this invitation. Yeah, I put this kind of pressure on myself—that must be a different degree that I have! I’ll need to ask my Coach about that.

Anyway, a week later I received their check in the mail. Both timely and professional—so very Mary!  One additional week later, it happened. Yep, my spokesdog, Rocket, ate the check. He somehow found it and ate it like a Scooby snack. I saw it happening mid-snack. When I realized it was a check—the check—I froze. My husband froze. This was not good. That started my brain spinning from my degree—Making Stuff Up.

After all, how do you call a client and say, “the dog ate my homework”? My brain said, “They’ll think you’re unorganized, Dawn” or “That’s not a very professional consultant”. Or worse, “We couldn’t possibly recommend Dawn to anyone else; she can’t even cash a check.” I was really making stuff up!

When I weighed my options, I knew what I had to do. I called Mary. I admitted to her that this was the most embarrassing call I’d ever had to make as a consultant. I apologized before she even knew what happened. As a dedicated blog follower, Mary knows Rocket. So, when I blurted out, “Rocket ate the check you sent me”, she laughed out loud.  When I say I needed that laugh, I mean I NEEDED THAT LAUGH! Thank you, Mary!

First, Mary has a dog, so she gets it. Second, Mary is filled with grace and clearly doles it out, as needed. Third, she said if that was the worst thing to happen that day, then we both would have pretty good days—and one funny story. Oddly enough, as a bonus, she told me that Monica was the Treasurer for the Northeast Indiana Association of Fundraising Professionals, so she would be the one to re-cut that check.  

I hung up the phone, still feeling professionally embarrassed, yet also feeling like I’m blessed that I  get to hang out with some really incredible people. As if I didn’t know that after I hung up, I learned it one week later.

I came home from the exact day where my Executive Leadership Coach, Erin, taught me about MSU University and there was a package on my counter. That package was from Mary. I ripped it open to find a check, a box of dog treats, and the world’s most thoughtful note that read:

That’s some Unreasonable Hospitality right there.  Or as my friend, Sherri, said: Unreasonable Pawspitality! I immediately send the picture above to my Coach and she said, “This may be one of the very best MSU turnaround stories I’ve ever heard!” Same, girl, same!

I promised Mary that I’d use the story in a blog and likely and upcoming keynote address. And strangely, I’m not feeling embarrassed anymore. In fact, I want to tell the story!

Oftentimes we don’t share our failures, only our successes. It’s natural, normal even. But I fail all the time. I’ve learned a lot from failure. But everyone fails. In fact, failure is something we all have in common! So, go to the shredder and immediately shred that diploma you got from MSU University. Just stop making stuff up and remember that we’re all human.

John C. Maxwell Quote: “Fail early, fail often, but always fail forward.”

And while you’re at it, stop comparing yourself to other people or other organizations. You can read blogs or books or social media sites to learn from others, but don’t try to be them. You’re you and that’s enough!

I once had someone say, “I wish I had your creativity”What a great compliment that I happily received, but only because the giver had loads of gifts of their own. Use what you have, never stop learning, and improve what you do day after day after day. That’s what we’re all trying to do, right?

Fundraising is hard work, that’s why I wanted to deliver that keynote address in the first place. But if you’re doing better than you did last week, last month, or last year, you’re killing it!  Keep slaying, my fundraising friend. At the end of the day, your dog didn’t eat your donor’s end-of-year giving checks. That’s what winning looks like, right?! And if you happen to be like me, with a degree from MSU University, get yourself an Executive Leadership Coach to help you. My Erin (yes, she’s my Erin) with Intentional Coaching + Consulting has an amazing team and has made a world of impact in my professional life. She’s a former non-profit CEO who inspires me to be a better leader, a better person. Everybody needs a Mary, a Monica, and an Erin in their life. Go find yours, thank them, then be that person for someone else! Fundraisers—you’re my favorite people.  Keep up the good work!

All the Best,

[email protected]
dawn brown creative, llc. 

P.S. Fundraising is hard, even though you make it look
oh-so easy! ♥

Frideas--Friday ideas are filled with
info and inspo!

Want to participate in some Knowledge Generosity,
here's your opportunity!

What do you do with an idea?  You change the world!

Get a Fridea: a Friday idea!

Stay connected with news and updates!

Join my mailing list to receive the latest news, updates, and ideas for days!

Don't worry, your information will not be shared.

I seriously hate SPAM, like for real.

So, I promise to never sell your information, for any reason.