Advancing Nonprofit Capacity

Are You a One Man Band?

Thanks to Michelle Jimenez, Senior Consultant, HUB Philanthropic Solutions, for today’s blog.

If you’re like me, this time of year can feel overwhelming. Many of us in Development are serving as “one man bands” with responsibilities for soliciting gifts, acknowledging them, visiting with donors and many other daily activities.  We morph from Major Gift officer to administrative assistant with the click of a pen.

Conflicting priorities, multiple projects and deadlines can have even the best organized person feeling like they are drinking water from a fire hose.

So December seems like a good time to remember the teachings of Steven Covey. Remember him? He is the time management guru, and author of 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. I read this book (long ago) but continue to think about his core teachings of creating quadrants to help with prioritization.

  • Quadrant I: Urgent & Important matters
  • Quadrant 2: Not Urgent & Important
  • Quadrant 3: Urgent and Not Important
  • Quadrant 4: Not Urgent, Not Important

The grid has many applications that include taking your current ‘to-do’ list and sorting all the activities into the appropriate grid. Then, assess the amount of time you have to accomplish the lists and, if necessary, reallocate activities. This exercise can be especially helpful NOW — during the busiest time of the year. So let’s take just five minutes and reflect on what decisions should be made.

For instance, there is a sense of urgency to get our acknowledgement letters out within 24 hours right? While I agree, this is an admiral goal, maybe this time of year, your office would run more effectively if you bundle acknowledgment letters, to two days, say Tuesdays and Thursdays. That frees up your time and mental space for more strategic activities such as planning and securing donor visits and staying in touch with those loyal supporters you hope to receive a gift from this holiday season. In this scenario, soliciting gifts and making donor contacts becomes a #1 priority and donor acknowledgement moves to the #2 priority slot.

Similarly, let’s remember those donors who reside at the top of our giving pyramid, but gave a thoughtful, large gift earlier this fall. Consider asking a colleague in your program department to send a Holiday card mentioning how much they are impacting a special program this year. That would be a #3 priority that you can delegate.

Franklin Covey calls this process Planning and Solitude. This may not seem like activity, yet it is. It’s a time of stepping away from your business and looking over it as though you are at 30,000 feet. This helps you identifying what needs attention, and where to focus.

Covey encourages his readers to do this every morning. So treat yourself to a morning cup of ginger bread latte and take a few minutes for planning and solitude.

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