I am a terrible hoarder. Really, I can’t help myself. I even keep old to-do lists from old jobs. Tragic. But I’m trying to reform and have a big clear out of papers. In doing this, I came across a to-do list from my old job, and written on the page were a whole load of tasks like this:
- Confirm HR have done fire training
- Reschedule 1:1 with boss
- Prep donor relations meeting and follow up
- Reschedule team meeting and book room
- Etc etc.
Sure, there were other tasks on there to do with donors and prospects, but there was a shocking amount of ‘other stuff’. When you are leading a team and have a big target, that’s a perfect storm of procrastination just waiting to happen.
None of us spend 100% of our time at work fundraising, even if we are a full-time, front-line fundraiser with no one to manage but our desk plant. We all have other stuff to do. And some of it is important (managing the team, setting the budget). But when this ‘other stuff’ starts to creep and grow, even the best fundraisers necessarily shift their gaze inwards and find their money-making time squeezed to the edges.
Fundraising isn’t easy; it takes guts, determination, creativity, and diligence. It can be hard to get out of the office – to go out and build relationships knowing that each and every one of them is likely to be time consuming and difficult, and some may not even come to anything.
The solution? Do the thing today that will raise money. That’s it. Simple. Take a long, hard look at your to-do list and pick the one most important thing you can do that will raise money. And do that. Now.
That might be clearing 2 hours (shut down your emails, put your out-of-office message on, shut your office door, and divert your phone) to do one of the following:
- Run a query of everyone you’ve requested a meeting with to date and not yet arranged or held a meeting with. Give each person a call.
- Think of the one prospect you’ve not done anything with so far, but you have a strong feeling could be one of the biggest donors. Set a timer on your phone and spend 1.5 hours reading about them online (skim-read their autobiography if you can) and trawl their record on the database for clues. Write your findings on an A3 piece of paper. Spend the next 20 minutes writing actions based on your findings and the last 10 minutes undertaking those actions.
- Write a list of your top 10 prospects – the ones who are likely to give and will give big – and do something with each to move them along. One thing for each prospect. Quick, easy, and do it now.
I know from my own experience that sometimes the most important (and I mean absolute game-changing, billionaire) prospects are the ones constantly pushed to the bottom of the pile. They are too important, they need ‘proper thinking time’ (erm, that time doesn’t exist, the time is now), it’s too hard, the stakes are too high… Do something, anything to move them forward. Do it. Do it now.
As for me… hooray! Every week for the last month, I’ve written down that I will write another blog post. Here it is. Tick.
If you’ve got top tips on time management, creating the space for fundraising, and getting the balance right between internal issues and external fundraising, I’d love to hear from you in the comments.
-Tess Nixon Spiller, Senior Consultant