The hardest part about our jobs is figuring out how to fit in everything we must accomplish. When faced with lean budgets and even leaner professional teams, nonprofit development pros have a harder time than most trying to do get it all done without sacrificing their personal lives or feeling like they are doing everything “half way”. I have tried list making, project development software, timelines and even scheduling time to schedule… but there are five rules of thumb I share with my clients when we attempt to break down the rules of prioritization in the fundraising world. Here they are:
1) Strategic campaign planning: Nothing helps you to organize your year, month, week and hour like a good strategic campaign plan. When it’s all up in our heads it’s hard to create timelines and delegate to lay leadership, committees or staff partners. A good campaign plan involves a strategy document (what am I going to do to raise the money I need and how will I get there), a timeline or calendar, and a stewardship/cultivation plan that outlines what I am doing for donors and prospects when not soliciting.
2) Schedule time each week on your calendar: We constantly imagine ourselves to have more time than is truly available to us each day or week. If it’s not on my calendar to schedule lunch with a donor, send a holiday card, work on my timeline or write my blog, it does not happen. Move key activities from the timeline/cultivation plan directly onto your calendar. Know thyself: it typically won’t happen if it’s not scheduled.
3) Set manageable goals: Just like we imagine ourselves to have more time than is truly available, we tend to think of ourselves as superheroes in terms of what we are able to accomplish within a specific timeframe. How often do you want to be out there meeting with donors? Two times per week or two times per month? How often should your development committee be meeting? How many subcommittee meetings per month are you able to commit to? Most of us want to be meeting with donors and prospects much more frequently than we are now, so choose a manageable, reasonable goal and then use Rule #2 to get it on your calendar (and schedule the scheduling of those meetings – they take time!!).
4) Dump the events: We in the development world spend too much time planning events. Events can be fantastic major gift and cultivation tools, but add up the amount of staff time and salary that is dedicated to these efforts and do the cost benefit analysis… are they worth the time and money? Are you better off spending your time stewarding major gift relationships? The deployment of special events should be re-analyzed every year.
5) Utilize your board and development committee: My last blog talked about the board as fundraising partners. Lay leadership are a vastly underutilized resource in our development programs, and organizations who train, organize and empower their volunteers to act as partners in major gift development reap the benefits of their actions. Board and committee members can offer access to new networks, wealth and volunteer leadership, so give them the resources they need to be successful members of the fundraising team.
Giving Tree Associates can help your nonprofit to develop strategic campaign plans, train lay leadership and create donor cultivation and stewardship programs. Check out our website and let us know how we can help you to raise more money.