Message from the President

A key to fundraising success is learning how to take control of your schedule and your life.
 
My nonprofit career started in 2005. During the interview process the CEO of the organization repeatedly told me the job required long hours, working nights, and working on the weekend. A few months into the job I was reminded of his warning when I turned in my mileage reimbursement and the total was more than my monthly salary. During busy seasons at the job I often found myself working 10-12-hour days, 7 days a week.
 
One thing you can count on when working for non-profits is working long irregular hours. Which, if not managed correctly can lead to stress, loss of productivity, and premature burn out.
 
Here are 4 things you can do to take control of your schedule and your life:
 
Prioritize what is most important.
With so many people and priorities all pulling for your time and attention it is easy to fill your schedule with things to stay busy. The hard part is focusing your time on the things that matter most. One way to determine what is most important is to categorize things requiring your attention into three areas: essential, important, and non-essential.  Essential items would be critical to your organization. Examples may include payroll, or funding. Important items require your time and energy but may not need to be done immediately. Everything else falls into the non-essential category.
The key is to focus most of your time on essential and important items and minimize the amount of time you spent on non-essential items. Remember, without prioritizing your time and energy it is possible to stay busy doing things that are good that distract you from doing the things that are essential.
 
Take control of your calendar and email.
Now that know what things are most important it is time to schedule them into your calendar. You should block out most of your time doing things that are essential and fill in the rest of your time doing things that are important.  A key to juggling multiple tasks is to schedule time on a regular basis to make progress on upcoming project deadlines. Don't let electronic communication distract you from things that are essential. Consider setting times each day to check your emails, and keep Outlook closed the rest of the day. Good times to check your email is early in the morning or at the end of the workday.
 
Schedule time off to disconnect.
A bad habit some fundraisers have is taking work home and not disconnecting.  Ideally you shouldn't be reading or replying to emails late at night from home. If you are, consider having a cut off time which you will no longer check or reply to your electronic communication. Remember, although the email may appear urgent and require your immediate attention the reality is the person you are about to email after hours is probably not at work or checking their email until the morning. When you do find yourself with an evening or weekend to yourself, make it a point to disconnect from work by not checking your emails (or making a goal to check it less frequently). Whatever you do, don't convince yourself you are too busy to take your vacation.
 
Delegate. Delegate. Delegate.
If you have a type A personality, like me, my guess is that at one point in your career you have struggled with the ability delegate and let go of projects. You may feel like you can accomplish the task quicker and be more accurate if you do it yourself. While it may be true that you can accomplish more in the short term, this mentality often produces several negative and often unanticipated results. Taking responsibility for too many projects at the same time can often lead to working unnecessarily long hours, frustration with your job and your employees, lack of productivity, and eventual burn out.  An often-overlooked consequence of trying to control too many projects is the impact it has on your employees.  Employees which are not empowered to do their job often feel unappreciated, unmotivated, and often under perform.
 
A great way to start delegating more is to think of yourself as a coach. Your job is to provide the training, motivation, and atmosphere you’re your donors and team. A coach does not take credit when the team wins and takes full responsibility when the team under performs. Rather than doing the work themselves, coaches trust their team to get the work done. Great coaches set clear expectations, check in with their team members regularly, and provide course adjustments as needed to reach the goal.
 
This year our focus is helping YOU succeed in YOUR role. I hope you will take a moment prioritize what is most important, control your calendar and electronic communications, schedule down time, and delegate.
 
I know these things sound simple, but by doing them YOU will be more productive and satisfied with YOUR career.
You’ve got this!
Aaron G Javener, CFRE