I spend a lot of time in small to midsize fundraising shops.
And one of the things I’m always amazed by is how much time people spend TALKING about what needs to get done.
It seems as though we talk and talk and talk.
- We talk about what to do and when to do it.
- We talk about how we will fit it all in.
- We have meetings to discuss how we want to do the work (I know you’ve been in that meeting).
- We have meetings to schedule other meetings (you’ve been in that meeting too!).
With all this talking, how do we actually get the work done?
When do we tackle the hundreds of items on our task lists?
When do we think and strategize?
How are we supposed to meet with major donors when we have gifts to process, acknowledgements to send, board meetings to plan, emails to respond to and more?
As a development professional, you understand that fundraising needs to be front and center in your day. You know the importance of going out and securing gifts. And you know what needs to get done.
And it still sometimes happens that a morning goes by or maybe even a whole day goes by and at the end of the day you’re left wondering, what did I actually accomplish today?
I know I did a bunch of things. I was busy the whole day. I barely even had time to go to the bathroom and I ate my lunch at my desk while plugging away.
But what did I really accomplish?
What did I do that will move my organization forward?
What did I do to bring in more money?
What did I do to cultivate or steward our most important donors?
Believe me, I know the feeling.
I’ve had days where I’ve crossed off a full-page worth of action items. Where I’ve whittled down my list from 45 to 19. And still, somehow, on these days, at the end of the day, when I look at the list, the big things, the things that really matter, are what’s left. Because those are the things that take the brain power.
I often talk to clients and ask them to tell me about their day. What do you do from the time you wake up until the time you go to sleep?
If you’ve never thought about this, take a minute to think about how you might answer that question.
The most common answer I get in some form adds up to this:
6:30 a.m. Wake up, shower, get dressed, get the kids off to school
8:30 a.m. Commute to work
9:00 a.m. Arrive at work, get some coffee, check my email
11:00 a.m. Staff meeting
12:15 p.m. Lunch (sometimes at my desk while checking email or signing acknowledgement letters or doing some other work)
12:45 p.m. Check the mail, look to see if money came in, bring it to accounting or database person, answer their questions, talk with them
1:30 p.m. Listen to voicemails and return phone calls
2:30 p.m. Prep for the board meeting
3:45 p.m. Ready to jump into a project (but wait, I’m tired and my brain isn’t fully on point)
We need to flip the script.
We need to turn our mindsets upside down and re-think about how we structure our days.
What if you didn’t check your email first thing in the morning? What if instead of hopping on email and getting sucked in, you started with something that you needed to do?
Maybe you start your day by writing that LOI or grant report. Maybe you start your day by calling five of your major donors to schedule meetings to see them.
What would it look like to block out a couple of hours in the morning to make progress on your most important items? The items that help to move your organization forward?
After all, it’s in the morning when we are most fresh, when our creative juices are flowing and when we can best accomplish what we set out to do. So, if we want to change our habits, if we want to get off that hamster wheel and have more time back in our days, it starts with changing how we view our time and how we structure our day. Let’s talk about some tips to do that.
Now I know what you’re thinking. You’ve read blogs on productivity and prioritization before. You’ve heard all of this.
And that may be true. These tips might not be new to you. And that’s ok. Sometimes, it takes hearing and reading things multiple times before it clicks.
Maybe this time you will digest the tips and promise yourself that today you’re going to start doing things differently.
And doing things differently doesn’t mean totally redoing everything about how you work.
That would be pretty drastic. (Check out the book, Atomic Habits by James Clear for some amazing stories on how small changes equal big results.)
Doing it differently can mean choosing one of the tips I’m going to share and deciding that for the next two weeks you’re going to adopt that one tip. And you’re going to see how it goes.
So that’s my challenge to you. Choose one tip and adopt it for two weeks. And that means doing it each and every day for two whole weeks.
And at the end of the two weeks, take a step back and see how you feel and if you think it’s helping.
I know it can be hard to change how we work. I also know first-hand that it can be life changing.
I hope you’ll join me on this journey.