Make the Most of
Your Fundraising Time

Ann Fitzgerald President AC Fitzgerald author

Ann C. Fitzgerald, President

Note: the following article appeared in the November/December 2011 edition of SPN News. 

Leading or working in a 21st century nonprofit organization requires a significant array of skills, not the least of which is the ability to make the most effective use of your time.

This is especially true when it comes to development activities. If you are not a fundraiser by nature, then you might avoid, delay or distract yourself from accomplishing the important and necessary tasks needed to raise money.

Get your fundraising back on track by following these time management tips.

Eat your vegetables before dessert. Be honest with yourself: are you a policy analyst at heart? If so, make policy work the reward after you’ve tackled the more difficult fundraising tasks. On a practical level, that may mean making 25 donor calls before editing a research paper.

Seek activities that lead to results. Is mailing 50 random foundation proposals a fundraising activity? Sure. Will it deliver results? Probably not. It will use up precious time for development work, however. As Timothy Ferriss writes in The 4-Hour Workweek, “Doing something unimportant well does not make it important.” So start each day by identifying those fundraising activities that will deliver the most impact for your organization. Rank each a priority 1,2,3, etc. Then start at the top and don’t move on to the next task until each is completed.

Think like a salesperson. Do you know exactly how much you need today to reach your organization’s budget by year-end? Good salespeople do. They constantly monitor their sales and adjust their activity accordingly. They also know who their best customers are and keep in touch with them regularly. Salespeople have many other good habits that we can emulate: they prepare the night before, set goals each day, take action, accept the fact that they may get turned down a number of times before making a sale, keep a positive attitude, and believe in themselves.

Group similar activities together. Many fundraisers have other duties within their nonprofit. While these responsibilities are often important—such as handling the accounting– they can also be time wasters. Don’t get caught in the trap of doing the same small tasks each day, like paying bills or correcting addresses in your database. Often we do these actions to avoid a more challenging work, like calling a donor! Group administrative activities together and designate one morning a week to handle them.

Work like you are going on vacation tomorrow. Do you ever notice how efficient you become when you know you will be out of the office? You suddenly wrap up all those niggling little action items that took the back burner for weeks. Make Thursday your weekly “pre-vacation” action day. Don’t leave the office before you arrange donor meetings, send emails, start writing a proposal, send a letter to a prospect, etc. Your Fridays are guaranteed to be more enjoyable and productive as a result.

Make the most of your high-energy time. Are you an early bird or a night owl? We all tend to have certain times of day when we are the most industrious. Use that time to your advantage and dedicate it to fundraising.

Avoid interruptions and don’t multitask. Vigilantly protect your fundraising time from distractions. Close the door to your office, turn off email, phones and smart phones, stop checking Facebook, and stay focused on the business at hand.

Read books for efficiency tips. Get inspired by the ideas from books and blogs from experts. I particularly like, Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen; and Brian Tracy’s books including, Eat That Frog!: 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time.

Finally, keep the prize in mind. The goal of fundraising is not to raise money, but to achieve a vision that will change the world. How you handle your daily development activities will contribute to your success.

Ann C. Fitzgerald is Founder and President of AC Fitzgerald, using her decades of experience in fundraising, management, leadership, and sales to help nonprofits build their capacity and achieve success. She is a sought-after speaker, writer, and advisor.

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