After having served most of my career as a Director of Development in a small organization, I understand the realities of trying to handle all of the major tasks and responsibilities that come up daily; plus the fires that seem to endlessly start and burn. Major gift work often gets put on the “back burner” while you tend to other things, sometimes blazing fires.
While many of the tasks that we need to accomplish are necessary, sometimes we are faced with taking our eye off of the “prize” and end up going down paths that don’t lead to direct revenue generation. Six months later, our boss is asking us for our bottom-line results and the number of donors we have met. And, alas, we have none. Next thing you know, you are headed out the door in an endless swirl of high expectations and turnover of staff.
How do we manage it all as development directors faced with a myriad of tasks and responsibilities, plus admin work layered on top of it? How do you stay focused on the work that matters and how do you best manage it all? Where is major gift work in your efforts? What stands in your way of calling and getting out the door to meet with donors?
Below, I recommend the steps that you can take to keep the focus on your major gift work.
1) Define what the core elements of your work should be to bring in or develop major revenue streams. For most, individual giving and major gifts are what often get neglected to focus on other things. However, cultivation and stewardship are a close second.
2) Determine what key areas of your work can be outsourced or delegated to some other person, position, or function, or even what you need to do to better manage the work. Is it software, training, or just a better organizational structure?
3) Finish current admin and other tasks that are draining your energy and get them behind you. But, finish them quickly. Don’t get mired in the “mud.”
4) Create some target goals for the month. If you are currently making calls twice a week for an hour, perhaps you consider making calls five times a week for a half hour. If you are making four donor visits per month, consider setting a “stretch” goal of at least eight visits per month. Without goals, you do not have anything to which you can achieve or aspire.
5) Designate a certain time of day to make your calls or to conduct your outreach. Say, make calls every day at 9 a.m. Usually, making the most important task first on your to-do list means that you increase the odds of actually accomplishing it.
6) Break your work into manageable chunks. Don’t try to do do it all in one session. Smaller sessions allow you to be more focused and productive.
7) Pull the list of donors and have it ready. Consider who you are calling? Are you making “Thank You” phone calls or are you calling all of your “Top Tier” donors to check-in and steward the relationship? Get the lists prepared in advance of your call time.
8) Most importantly, determine what can get in the way of you accomplishing this. If you don’t identify your potential obstacles in advance, you will not be able to put a plan in place. Perhaps you have a full day class that may get in your way each week. Well, come up with an alternate plan for making calls and visits. Perhaps you double up on a day or two.
9) Plan on how you will handle the “fires” when they start smoldering – and they will smolder.
10) Remain hyperfocused around your time and vigilantly protect that half an hour that you have set aside daily to tend to your donors and build your major gift program. Make it a point to spend your time on only what is effective and productive to your efforts and, ultimately, the organization and its mission. Don’t get distracted from what is most important – your donors.
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