publication date: May 3, 2012
author/source: Fraser Green
Not long ago, I did some board training with a small health
foundation. After one of our sessions, the executive director pulled me aside
and told me a story that had him pulling his hair out. Just before Christmas, a
donor had called and offered a gift of securities. The gift turned out to be
worth just over $5,000-by far this charity's biggest gift of 2011. It energized
everyone. Hope soared that they were on their way to bigger and better
successes in 2012.
Then in early April that same donor called the executive
director. The reason for the call? The donor hadn't received his tax receipt.
He was all ready to submit his 2011 income tax return. The only thing missing
was the receipt for his donation.
When the executive director asked some questions, he was
shocked to learn that the donor's gift hadn't been acknowledged at all. No
receipt. No thank-you note. No call from anyone connected with the foundation.
Too busy for stewardship
It turns out that the fundraising staffer responsible for
this donor's stewardship had been too busy
to do it. I know this
sounds crazy-but it happened just the way I've described it.
I'm fortunate enough to travel across the country, and I
talk to all types of fundraisers every single day. From big and small charities
(and everything in-between). From every region of Canada. From every sector you
could imagine. Even though many parts of our jobs can be very different,
there's one thing that we all seem to have in common no matter where we work.
We're too busy for our own good!
And no wonder we're so busy. Most of us are asked to do more
with less this year than we were last. We're bombarded with 4,000 messages a
day-not to mention ringing phones and overflowing email inboxes. Our brains
process an average of 60,000 thoughts a day (that's just over one thought per
second during our waking hours!) We're simply trying to do more than our poor
brains can manage.
Noise isn't money
What happens when we get too busy? We confuse the urgent
(where the noise
is) with the
important (where the money
plow through our to-do lists knowing that we won't make it to the bottom of
them. We rely on adrenalin to push the paper (or emails or spreadsheets) up the
When we rely on nothing but hard work to do our jobs, we
forget to work smart. There's an old adage that says we should "work smarter,
not harder." And let's face it: most of us can't work any harder than we're
This month's ridiculously
yourself 45 minutes every week to sit and think about your job. Make a date
with yourself. Consider your meeting with yourself to be just as important as a
donor visit or a session with your boss.
someplace where you won't get distracted (I like busy coffee places that aren't
frequented by my fundraising pals).
your meeting with yourself at a time of day when your brain is working well
(for me, that's somewhere between 6 a.m. and 8 a.m.).
with an empty piece of paper or a blank computer screen and just jot down
ideas, make a list of important (not urgent) tasks, and look three months, six
months or a year down the road. Cook up a new idea. Figure out how to dismantle
a silo in your shop. Think about how you could work on building donor loyalty.
I've learned this lesson the hard way. When I get too busy
and don't make time for myself, I make mistakes. I forget important tasks. I
gravitate to the little stuff because it feels more manageable. But I've
learned to catch myself early in this process.
Fraser Green is principal and chief strategist at Good
Works, a consulting firm that works with Canadian charities to engage
donors at a truly human level and build donor loyalty and commitment. Fraser
welcomes your ideas, comments and criticisms about this tip.