What I Learned Writing
My Dissertation

Susan E Mangels Senior Vice President Consulting Services at AC Fitzgerald Author

Susan E. Mangels, Ph.D, Senior Vice President of Consulting Services

Big Project Management

Do you ever have a big project that seems overwhelming? Maybe because it is so important or particularly complex?

This leads many of us to serious procrastination. We are often tempted to wait for the ‘perfect time’ when the stars align, we can clear the decks, and focus on just this project. In the meantime, we spend our days on less important tasks that are easier to check off our list.

All the while, the big, important project looms… Whether it’s a new strategic plan, a fundraising campaign, a major donor strategy program, or new case for support, there it sits, haunting us.

Moreover, in fundraising, every day we procrastinate, is a day lost in getting support for our mission.

When I wrote my PhD dissertation, I was working full time. I was leading a normal, full life. I didn’t have lots of spare time or extra energy to expend. I knew I needed to figure out how to buckle down, get it done, and do it well. Here are some lessons I learned during that time that have proven valuable ever since.

  • Define why the project important. Make sure that you understand the significance of the work that you are doing. This will keep you motivated and provide the rationale you need to allocate the time and resources necessary for work done well.
  • Define the question/problems you are trying to solve. And clarify what you will not address in this project. For instance, if you are launching a fundraising campaign to educate people about freedom of speech in the U.S., don’t get distracted by human rights limitations in Korea.
  • Define the goal of the project. Understand clearly what success will look like when the project is complete, and have a concrete understanding of your final “deliverables”.
  • Define what resources you need to accomplish the project. What data do you need, who needs to collaborate, what literature should be referenced? Will you need the expertise of fundraising counsel, a writer, or anyone else?
  • Set your deadline and work backwards to schedule and block time for your work. Set interim goals for finishing certain aspects like data collection, drafting a plan, seeking input, and composing the final deliverable.
  • Schedule your work times consistently and protect that time from encroaching demands. When working on a big project, I find that blocks from 90 minutes to three hours are most effective.
  • Understand that the ‘best is often the enemy of the very good’. Perfection is not the goal. Though excellence is important, no one project is the key to 100% of an organization’s success. Rather organizational growth usually comes from a team working consistently every day to execute good work plans that are aligned with the organization’s mission, vision, and values.

I hope these strategies prove helpful to you as well. You can also refresh your game plan with our blog posts  Fundraising is Simple, But Not Easy, Getting “Un-stuck”, and Saying No to Say Yes.

Your mission matters. Onward!

Susan E. Mangels, Ph.D. serves as Senior Vice President of Consulting Services at AC Fitzgerald. She uses her expertise in fundraising, management, and leadership development to oversee our consulting efforts and deliver exceptional service to clients.

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