20 Apr Squeezing Fundraising onto Your To-Do List
Do you feel like a circus performer juggling multiple tasks competing for your time and attention? Have you been asked to write your ministry’s strategic plan—and then implement it all by yourself? Are you responsible for training and coaching your staff, but can’t seem to find time to meet with them regularly? Do you finally schedule a meeting, only to cancel it to prepare financial reports for the board meeting? Has your board chair asked you to ramp up your fundraising efforts because the budget is a little tight? You might think to yourself, “And just how am I supposed to squeeze that in?”
Don’t laugh! This is an every day, real occurrence in the non-profit world.
The “tyranny of the urgent” is not just a cliché, but a reality in many ministries. Charles E. Hummel wrote a small pamphlet bearing that title (Inter-Varsity Press, 1967) and commented, “When we stop to evaluate, we realize that our dilemma goes deeper than shortage of time; it is basically the problem of priorities.” So, how can you maintain both your sanity AND priorities and still raise funds your ministry?
· Is the answer more staff? Maybe, but that’s not always possible.
· Is the answer less responsibilities or tasks on your plate? Maybe, but which ones should you eliminate?
· Is the answer better time management, as in “shall I sign up for one of those time management seminars when it comes to town?” Maybe. This may help you cope with the immediate challenge but not alleviate your problem long term.
Finding more time in your day, week, or month is a fundamental management challenge. One executive director described his avalanche of paperwork, “It’s horrendous and getting worse. Sometimes it seems all I do is shuffle papers without ever making progress on the real work that needs to be done.” All of us have “real” work and “not so” real work. How can you tell the difference and strike the right balance?
Setting the right priorities.
Name three things your organization must do well to thrive. Then ask yourself, “What are three things in my current job description that only I can do?” Involve your board or others in your evaluation process. Fundraising should land near the top. The CEO or executive director is typically the most effective fundraiser in any organization. The position carries influence; many donors want to talk directly with the boss. You may need get rid of some responsibilities to add fundraising to your plate.
Sticking to these priorities.
Maybe you have heard the expression, “keep the main thing the main thing.” Once you establish the right priorities, jealously protect your fundraising time. Schedule a day, or two half days each week to meet with donors and prospects. Use this time to educate, cultivate, and nurture your relationships. Be persistent. Interruptions and other “important” things will always try to crowd into your fundraising time. Unless it is in your job description, and only you can do it, don’t let anything get in the way. Your ministry success depends on your fundraising efforts. Bottom line–free up your schedule for fundraising.
In his book, One Minute Manager, Ken Blanchard poses the question, “Why is it that some managers are typically running out of time while their staffs are typically running out of work?” Some leaders think they are indispensable, or that some tasks can only be completed by them. Yes, this is partly true, but most of us struggle with delegating properly, thus adding to our stress. No one is indispensable. That thought process limits the work or growth of others.
Delegation is “the ultimate form of management” because it allows your people to achieve more and more with less and less from you. And guess what? Effectively delegating one project, or task, frees up time for you to delegate more responsibilities to others. As you achieve higher levels of delegation, it will free up your time to focus on what is most important. If someone else in your organization can do or be trained to do a task you currently do, let them do it.
Whom should you delegate these extra tasks to? It may be someone on your staff or team. If not, can you identify some faithful volunteers? Recruit true biblical stewards who desire to serve the Lord. They may have time and talent in areas you may not.
Is there a risk when delegating? Of course, but the greater risk is being overwhelmed and ineffective as a leader because you can’t get to everything. With all those plates spinning in the air, it is only a matter of time until some of them crash to the floor. Delegate every task that keeps you from “the main thing.”
Fundraising is essential for every ministry leader. It is not about “squeezing fundraising onto your to-do list.” Embrace fundraising as one of your top priorities and then reassign everything that gets in the way. Your ministry will thank you!
About the Author: Kent Vanderwood, Vice President – Kent offers clients over 35 years of non-profit experience including teaching, administrative, consulting, and directorships. Through his work as Development Director for The Potter’s House, Gospel Communications International, and Mel Trotter Ministries, Kent brings a wealth of experience in fundraising and development. He currently serves as a board member for the West Michigan chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP). His passion for seeing Christian stewardship principles applied in a systematic way helps the non-profit organization or ministry be successful in fulfilling its mission.