How to Find Time to Fundraise

May 11, 2021Donors, Fundraising, Nonprofits, Philanthropy, Productivity, Time Management

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“I don’t know how to find time to fundraise.”

I hear this all of the time.

Most likely, the Coronavirus has disrupted your schedule and your life. Working from home has caused havoc and many challenges. Children are home, there is no ideal workspace, or family interrupt you many times during the day, for example. 

Simply put, prioritizing is a challenge, and your productivity system is not working. Furthermore, maybe your system was not working before the virus crisis. 

Here is the beginning of a long email I received at 5:40 am from an overwhelmed development director client. She says…

Nancy, I think it would be helpful to get your thoughts on how to prioritize.  It feels like everything is a priority, so nothing is a priority.  I sling a little out on each thing and never am at full attention to detail on anything.  Any thoughts you have on organizing and prioritizing would be helpful.

As a fundraiser, the challenges in working from home coupled with a decrease in funding adds enormous stress to your life.

But there are aspects of your day you can control. We all want to be engaged and highly productive in our work. To do that, we need structure.


Be Highly Productive to Raise Much-Needed Funds

Let’s look at what you can do to regain a schedule and be highly productive so you can
raise the much-needed funds during this time of crisis.


#1 Claim a Schedule 

First of all, find the time of day to dedicate to working that works best for you and your family.

And then claim it. 

Set boundaries on interruptions and when you will be taking a break.

There are times you need to go deep on a project. Certainly, you need time to think without interruptions. And that means protecting your most important priorities.

If you are an early riser, consider establishing 6:00 – 8:00 am as a “do not disturb” time, unless an emergency. If you are a night owl, set 8:00 – 10:00 pm as that dedicated time. Set a dedicated time to concentrate or go deep writing grants, drafting proposals, writing notes to donors, or organizing your day, for example. 

I would always ask my staff to wait until after 10:30 am before scheduling meetings or engaging in discussions. There are always exceptions, but this was our set schedule for us to work on projects that required a deep or creative focus. Definitely, it was an incredibly valuable routine that allowed me to be productive.

Carve out time to be intentional, and set yourself up for a successful and productive day. You want a well thought out day. In fact, know what you want your day to look like before you start.

No doubt, set a schedule and ask staff, family, and friends to honor your workday.


#2 Adopt the Use a Physical Planner 

I could not survive without my physical planner and favorite #9 Pentel pencil. 

Most of you know I use Michael Hyatt’s Full Focus Planner, a productivity management system. This daily system has been a game-changer for me. No question, it guides me to set my highest priorities and act on them both day-to-day and year-to-year.

Listen to this — studies show that when you write down your goals, you have at least a 40% chance of putting them to memory. Undoubtedly, there is something about writing down your goals, keeping them front and center, and checking them off your list. What gets written down and scheduled, gets done. 

Above all, decide on a daily planner and productivity system that works for you so you can achieve your fundraising goals. It gives you clarity and helps you stay focused on the next steps with each donor.

#3 Establish Daily Top 3 Priorities 

Do you often look back at the end of the day and think “what did I accomplish?”

Clearly, establishing daily priorities is part of having a productivity system in place.

As development directors and fundraisers, your calendars often run you instead of your running your calendars. Consequently, if you don’t control your schedule and time, it will control you. And your time is finite.

Without question, you have to find time to fundraise – to contact your donors and keep them engaged.

To do so, make it a priority and block time off on your calendar each week.

Most importantly, manage your time, so you ensure you stay focused on what’s important and meet your fundraising goals. 


#4 Use an Online Project Management System 

Besides a physical planner, use an online project management system. This is critical in communicating with your team. My team at the foundation used Basecamp, but now I use Asana.

Most likely, you have an online project and personal task management system you are already using. There are many project management systems available. Learn to use them. They are to help you, not to overwhelm you.


#5 Use the 5-Minute Win Strategy 

Without a doubt, one of my favorite hacks is celebrating “five-minute” wins. The times when I am not in a deep dive, I am responding to an email, scheduling a meeting, or moving the needle on a project. 

Identify a task that takes less than five minutes to do. And do it. Small completed tasks move you along and give you a psychological boost. Certainly, we need little wins to keep us motivated and accomplishing our goals. 


In Summary

In summary, establish a system and set yourself up for success.

Adopt a productivity and online project management system to protect your time and keep you focused on what’s important. 

As a fundraiser, that means you must find time to fundraise.

Here’s some tough love: if you don’t focus on getting the right things done, you won’t meet your fundraising goals, may have to cut programs, or worst yet, will have to close your doors.

What are you doing so you find time to fundraise?

Nancy Rieves, Ed.D. is a fundraising coach. She provides executive and development directors with a roadmap to maximize and sustain major gift fundraising. She prepares leaders to be confident and successful in raising money. Reach her at nancy@nancyrieves.com.


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