Lessons I’ve Learned

By Denise Roggio

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These are lessons I have learned from observing people from all walks of life – people who love what they do and excel at it, people who have royally messed up and people I respect. In my opinion, there is nothing that compares to our experiences in life. Education, degrees and certifications are all wonderful. But it’s the experience that is the true teacher. The interesting thing about experience is we all have it, but not all choose to learn from it. Not all choose to share it. Some souls harbor long term despair due to experiences, while others use the bad experience to become super-human.

I have been blessed to have had amazingly positive experiences. The few negative ones stand out as learning experiences, but only in hindsight. When you’re in the midst of a tragic life event, a sales slump, a divorce or the death of a loved one, the experience is despised. Once time has passed, hindsight unveils how we have changed. What I have learned is that experiences should change me for the better. Following are 24 appropriate tips for the Philanthropist at heart. I hope you find them encouraging, no matter what your personal or professional goals are.

Expert by Experience Tips:

  1. In my profession, when a proposal is denied, I am careful to ask for a panel review. How can I understand why it’s denied, if I don’t ask? Not all grantors will respond, but many will be glad to share the reason for the denial. Sometimes, they write a detailed denial letter, explaining the exact reason: “At this time, your project does not align with our goals. Please apply in the future.”
  2. Being involved in a team project can be overwhelming. Personalities differ, generating conflict over a variety of opinions that result in arguments. I have learned to be the ultimate diplomat. This does not mean that I’m a doormat! Diplomacy is an art form that takes practice. In open team meetings, everyone should be able to speak their minds in a professional tone; but sometimes, someone will get excitable. The first rule of diplomacy is to remove your emotions from the situation and see it for what is happening: someone is excitable – it’s that simple. Following this rule means you won’t contribute to the drama. In fact, you may be the one who keeps the meeting together.
  3. Looking someone directly in the eyes and offering a firm handshake goes a long way toward building credible relationships.
  4. Sometimes an opportunity will come your way and the deadline to take part could be tomorrow! Prioritize, prioritize, and prioritize. I have had grant opportunities cross my path in this fashion. If the opportunity outweighs the other tasks on my plate, then everything else can wait.
  5. Nothing matters more than your health. You are absolutely no good to your philanthropy, your family or yourself if you have an undernourished, tired and sick body. STOP all unnecessary activities and get on track. You will be overloading the normal stress of life if you don’t prioritize yourself and your body’s needs.
  6. Exercise your personal boundaries. I have a tendency to be a very giving person. I get drawn in by empathizing with others, and before I know it, I’ve volunteered for something, overextended myself and feel miserable. I remind myself of Tip #5 all the time. Take heed.
  7. Pertaining to grant writing and marketing: only promise your best effort. Never promise a result. You cannot guarantee your grant will be awarded or your marketing plan will result in customers.
  8. Time management skills! That’s a big one, and I had to learn the hard way. I began using an hourly calendar to train my brain. Make To-Do-Lists, use paid software to keep track of clients and a Customer Relations Management (CRM) protocol depending on your needs. It is worth spending money for the time-saving functionality these tools offer.
  9. No matter what you are told, what you overhear or what you thinkyou know: NEVER slander another human being. There is a point at which speaking the truth becomes gossip. You are not required to like everyone. In fact something would be wrong with you if you did. But, keep your dislike for someone else close to the cuff. You never know what the future holds, and you could be shooting yourself in the foot by touting your opinion to the wrong person. Also, relationship drama gives one a bad reputation.
  10. If asked about a situation that’s “sensitive”, or if you are asked by a superior to clarify a murky event, all you can do is tell the truth. The truth is not what you have heard from a third party.The truth is only what you have witnessed yourself. After telling the truth, recount it in writing, especially if this is a work-related issue. Ask to have it placed in your employee/contractor file.
  11. No matter what, always remember you can only control your own attitude and your own actions.
  12. Be true to your belief system. Don’t say you believeone thing and proceed to doanother. It’s harder than you think. We’re all guilty. Later, you will despise yourself for hypocrisy. Hey, it’s a human condition. But we can all overcome.
  13. When it comes to youth activities and parenting, there are no experts. Follow your passion for them and you’ll do the right thing. They may not always appreciate it, but you are responsible for a young life – protect, nurture and love them. Help them succeed.
  14. Learn all you can! There are thousands of opportunities online to learn a skill set, practice a skill and interact with others regarding skills. In fact you can start right here. Of course, that’s my website. (Hey, I’m a business woman, after all). There are so many learning formats. You can attend conferences, read books, hone in your talents – the sky’s the limit.
  15. Attention grant writers: never accepta percentage of the grant award as payment for writing a grant! Contingency payments for grant writers are unacceptable.
  16. Anything to do with contract work must be clearly defined in a signed Independent Contractor Agreement. Check your state’s laws and the IRS rules for Independent Contractors.
  17. Philanthropists tend to burn out! Don’t let it happen to you. At least once per week, turn off the cell phone, lose yourself in your favorite movie/book, go for a hike, leave town – do anything to mimic a vacation day and forget your philanthropy for 24 hours. Take vacation weeks as often as you can. Make sure to set your email to “away”.
  18. Writing grants is a detailed and intense task – do not wait until the last minute to start an application. The required research and background information warrants the appropriate amount of time. The average corporate and foundation grant application should be started a minimum of 30 days in advance. The average Federal and State applications should be started a minimum of 6 weeks in advance of the deadline.
  19. Use a password manager! Especially for online grant portals and managing various organizations, passwords are not to be shared, and therefore you must organize them. I use Last Pass.
  20. Above all, get your sleep – this goes beyond the health benefits. Sleep is imperative for your brain’s proper function. You’ll think more clearly and be more decisive with 7 – 8 hours of Zzz’s each night.
  21. Listen twice as much as you speak. We do have two ears and only one mouth for a reason.
  22. If something causes roadblocks for you, avoid it like the plague. Examples include addictive substances and behaviors that interfere with your own joy and well-being. This can include toxic relationships.
  23. Jump in all the way or don’t jump at all. In other words, if you’re going to commit to something, remember you’re in with both feet. If you cannot fulfill it, don’t commit in the first place.
  24. Nurture the positive relationships and trust those you respect. There is wisdom in the counsel of many – as long as the counsel comes from trusted sources.

As you can see, these are tips that can be used to excel in various aspects of life: personal, business and philanthropic. They are not things I have mastered, but things I strive to do better all the time. I hope you find value and share your own expert by experience tips.

Kindest regards,

Denise and the LDR Pros Team



Denise Roggio is the Founder and Lead Consultant at LDR ProSolutions. She has a background in music education, grants, administration and presenting. Her passion is helping others succeed. Denise developed the C.H.I.P.S. Principle in 2016 to promote an increase in nonprofit and government sector grant funding. By applying the principle, she witnessed a tremendous improvement in three key areas: Project Development, Organizational Planning and Grant Awards/Management. She is a Certified Grant Writer®, with a Bachelor’s in Small Business Administration and Lean Six Sigma Certification.



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