If I’ve learned anything in my 35 years in fundraising it’s that there really isn’t enough time. Enough time to test before investing the entire budget on a “great” idea. Enough time to learn how to maximize the new ideas that promise to revolutionize fundraising. Enough time to train and mentor new hires and “employees with potential”. Enough time to explore all the features of new technology.

Unfortunately, I don’t have a secret recipe for finding more hours in the day.

But from the mouths of those wiser than I, here are four ways we can approach the lack of time as fundraisers.

Dreamer:

You will never find time for anything. If you want time you must make it.- Charles Buxton, English writer and philanthropist, 19th century

Dreamers are always looking to the next big thing to give them more time — the new hire, the faster network, the smarter phone. “If only . . .” is their mantra. But meanwhile, the work piles up, deadlines are missed, directives are hurried so others waste time trying to mind-read, and opportunities are squandered.

The reality is that at a nonprofit, there will always be more work than can be accomplished.

There will always be more opportunities than can be thoroughly pursued. The challenge is to make the hard calls on what is going to have the most impact (on income, relationships, future opportunities, etc.) and make time for those things. Otherwise you risk becoming a . . .

Micromanager:

A great leader hires good people and gives them the freedom to do their jobs. But I don’t have the budget to hire good people, so I settle for micromanaging . . .- Dilbert, November 23, 2013

If you have worked for a micromanager as I have, you know the frustration that causes. You can go to extremes: Why bother since it won’t be good enough anyway? vs. I’m going to get this the way he/she wants it if it kills me.

The reality is, working for a micromanager kills creativity and stifles common sense.

Instead of asking, “What is the right way to do this?” you ask, “What is the way to do this that will make so-and-so happy?” It’s no longer about doing your best; it’s about trying to read someone else’s mind and deliver on that unspoken standard.

If you have to micromanage because you have the wrong people filling the positions, you must fix that; it’s not going to eventually work out if you push hard enough. But if you’re micromanaging your team because that’s your preferred style, today is the day to stop. I can tell you from experience — you won’t get the best out of people; you’ll get the work that follows the path of least resistance.

Multi-tasker:

One cannot manage too many affairs: like pumpkins in the water, one pops up while you try to hold down the other. – Chinese Proverb

I am a multi-tasker and proud of it. Working in fundraising gave me continual opportunities to enhance my ability to multitask, but reality was that when something mattered and I gave it my full attention, the end result was better.

I love the image of pumpkins in the water that this proverb presents. Many times I felt like I was hit by a giant pumpkin I thought I had submerged once and for all. Maybe I would have a few less battle bruises if I had put less effort into multitasking and more into being an . . .

Overcomer:

Know the true value of time; snatch, seize, and enjoy every moment of it. – Lord Chesterfield, British Statesman, 18th century

Many an evening, I swept everything off my desk and stuffed it into my briefcase — not to finish it all that night, but to bring order out of the chaos that was preventing me from really accomplishing anything. I spread it all out on the floor and sorted it into piles: “Easy to complete/do first.” (I liked starting my day off with a sense of accomplishment.) “Phone calls.” “Emails.” “Needs more time: urgent.” “Needs more time: not urgent.” “Delegate.” Oftentimes, there was another pile — throw out or recycle. But until I took the time to sort it all, I was haunted by things that weren’t worth of a minute of stress.

Every fundraiser has too much to do, too few people to accomplish it all, and too many great ideas that are languishing because of a lack of time to bring them to reality. But enjoying what we do accomplish is, at the end of the day, far better than only regretting what we couldn’t do because we simply ran out of time.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Pamela Barden, CFRE, is a Direct Response Fundraising Strategist and Copywriter. With a professional career in strategic fundraising that spans 35 years, Pamela brings a wealth of experience and knowledge to working with nonprofit organizations.  She specializes in writing fundraising copy, P.R. materials and instructional articles, as well as developing and executing fundraising strategy.

As Vice President and Group Director at Russ Reid (2006–2009), she was responsible for the management of the largest single account for this marketing agency specializing in nonprofit fundraising.  Her nonprofit experience includes leading the fundraising work for International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (2001–2006); World Relief Corporation (1988–2001) and Youth for Christ/USA (1979–1988).

Pamela is a Certified Fundraising Executive (CFRE), winner of a Gold Award for Fundraising Excellence and an ECHO Award from the DMA, a Distinguished Instructor for UCLA Extension, adjunct instructor at University of La Verne and a weekly columnist for “Today in Fundraising.”

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