Entrepreneur: Chris Crytzer, M. A., CFRE
Business: Crytzer Communication
Greater Pittsburgh Area
Photography by Laura Petrilla.
For more than 25 years, Chris Crytzer’s communication and fundraising counsel has empowered small nonprofits to sustain and grow. During the Covid-19 pandemic, Chris helped her clients connect with funding sources while they canceled in-person fundraisers, limited or pivoted their programs, and tightened their budgets. Crytzer Communication reached a new peak in its growth. Chris needed to expand her team, rework her home office space, and prioritize her work-life balance. With the guidance and accountability of her Entrepreneurs Forever peer group in the South Hills of Pittsburgh, Chris was able to make important developments in these areas.
During the pandemic, Chris’ nonprofit clients needed more support in keeping track of grant opportunities and creating new fundraising strategies. Because Chris was working with more clients and working longer hours, she was losing time to tend to her own business.
“When the pandemic hit, it was more work than I could handle. And I knew that I needed to bring on some help, but at the same time it’s hard because this is my business. It’s like my third child. And you have to be careful about who’s going to work with you—there’s a huge trust component,” says Chris.
In one meeting with her peer group, Chris’ group facilitator Harold Behar introduced qualifying questions for potential clients. Chris was able to use that list when deciding who to hire. Since then, Chris has hired three additional independent contractors to help her with bookkeeping, researching funding opportunities, and managing a master calendar with important grant deadlines.
“I’m hiring people and growing my business thanks to this group. I’m more confident about that process. When I joined the group, I was just bringing on one independent contractor but now I have four. I don’t think I would have done that without this group,” says Chris.
With additional help, Chris now has more flexibility in handing off certain tasks. One small business owner in her peer group shared her approach to delegating work that Chris finds helpful and now uses herself: write one list of tasks that she enjoys doing and another that she prefers to pass to someone else.
“It feels refreshing because there are things on my list that I can give to the people who help me. And some of them love it. One of my independent contractors is a former executive director, and a lot of the things that I’m working on, she can do so much quicker. Realizing where people’s strengths are is a relief because I can’t grow my business if I’m doing everything,” says Chris.
Like many people, Chris found herself spending more time on Zoom and at her computer and started experiencing wrist and elbow pain. She realized that she needed to rework her office space. By sharing their own experiences of working from home, Chris’ peers inspired ideas for making improvements. And, they held her accountable for following through.
“One individual has a standing desk, and the rest of us were sitting. I knew that I needed to rework my office, so I asked about it, and it was a topic that other people were definitely interested in. The member with the standing desk said that when I go and test out desk chairs to take my laptop. I never would have thought to do that. But it makes sense, and it’s having the accountability to make that happen,” says Chris.
As more state and private funding opportunities became available, Chris was spending more time and energy helping her nonprofit clients narrow down the most appropriate sources to apply to. In these circumstances, finding a sustainable work-life balance became even more important. This year, Chris took a three-day weekend, and left her laptop at home while she was on vacation.
“We talk about work-life balance at almost every meeting. This month, we talked a lot about recognizing burnout and how to prevent it. With the prolonged pandemic, this topic has become even more important,” says Chris.
As Chris offers support to small nonprofits during the pandemic and beyond, she will continue to convene with her South Hills peer group to work through business challenges and get the support and accountability she needs to resolve them. Most importantly, her group is a space to work on her business, not just in her business.
“I don’t want to miss a meeting. It’s the best $12 a month I’ve ever spent in my entire life. I’ve never missed a meeting, it’s so important to me,” says Chris.