When you have a lot to do and not a lot of people to delegate any of it to, besides being stressed and overwhelmed, you often end up not focusing your attention in the most effective ways. You are, frankly, too busy to figure out what makes the most sense, and so you do whatever comes to hand. Or put another way, it’s the squeaky wheel that gets the most attention, whether that is warranted or not.
Even more insidiously, because you are so fragmented, you often fragment your work. Things that could seamlessly work in concert don’t get considered. Things that could serve many masters, don’t.
One of the things I discovered when I began consulting was that the ability to step back, to view things with a broader perspective, showed me ways to better use my time. Or rather, to better use my clients’ time, as I often found myself falling into the same traps that were ensnaring them.
Stepping back is really important. So is considering—before you do anything—why you are doing that particular thing. And does it meet the priorities of what you must accomplish?
Too often we end up doing things because, like that mountain, they are there. We think we should. Our boss tells us that it is our job. And I admit, that all too often you do end up having to do things that actually don’t move anything—least of all your purpose or priorities—forward. However, to even know that is a help.
So stop. Take a deep breath. Start here and ask yourself:
What, actually, do I need to achieve?
Look at your job description. Line through all that extraneous stuff that gets put in. Then sit down with your boss, your board—yourself—and make it concrete. For example, if your job description says (unhelpfully) words to the effect of “Create, implement, and continually upgrade a comprehensive Development Plan”, find out what that development plan needs to raise. How much? For what purposes? How sustainably?
If it tells you that you are to “Plan and implement a strong, proactive program to develop and cultivate major donor prospects from a pool of existing and potential donors” figure out how many prospects must you develop? How many must you cultivate? How many of those must be new and how many are already in your sights?
Once you know what you are charged with doing, it is actually your job to figure out what steps will get you there. If you are a one-person office charged with all aspects of fundraising, consider which techniques are worth most of your time to reach your fundraising goals. And which ones can you use for multiple purposes.
I’m not a big fan of galas for fundraising, but they can be terrific tools for moving prospects and donors to a next step. Understanding who to invite as your guest and where to sit them is as important as how many tickets you need to sell. Deploying your board to help you cultivate major donor prospects, steward major givers, and bring new people to the organization’s door is even more important than getting them to get their friends to buy two tickets so they meet their quota.
As you consider your job requirements, think about how much time each is worth. While annual giving is what helps your leadership to budget and run the operation, do you really bring in more with a letter that took 3 weeks to write as one that took you 3 hours? Or better still, one you edited from last year’s successful appeal?
Spending time in the right places is the most important thing you can do. Finding out which of those places is right is well worth the time at the front end so your back end—the results of your efforts—are meaningful.
Janet Levine works with nonprofits, helping them to increase their fundraising capacity, build involved boards, and increase donor retention. Learn how she can help you at http://janetlevineconsulting.com or email her directly at email@example.com