by Mandy Pearce
Are there enough hours in a day?
Not by a long shot!
For most of us, the list of things we need, or would like to do, far exceed the number of hours in a day. Especially a work day!
I recently asked what topic might be helpful for a blog post, and the reply I got first was, “how do I find time to work in grant writing and research when I have a million other responsibilities at my nonprofit?”
This questions is WAY more common than you might think. Heck, you might be having the same issue!
There is no magic answer that will create extra hours in your day, but there are some very intentional things you can start doing now, that will create order, management, and routine to your development work. This will allow you to begin research and writing grant proposals to bring in extra dollars for your special programs or projects.
I am not speaking as a person who has learned these skills in a classroom or from a book. I have been working with nonprofits in a development role for over 17 years. I have been a volunteer, staff, director and now coach and consultant. I have tried many things and I know what has worked for me and many of my clients and colleagues.
Take a look at the list below, see what you can realistically begin working on this week and then progressively incorporate these concepts into your day-to-day work. I bet you will begin to see more calm, more structure and more accomplishment in YOUR goals from day-to-day.
•Create time every week that is dedicated to specific development tasks. If you need to create time to call and thank donors, or begin grant research, set aside 1 hour, twice a week on the same days and do NOT schedule anything else. Do not take calls, do not assume this time is less valuable than another meeting. Stick to it. Once this becomes a habit, you will find that you are more productive and actually looking forward to your time on specific tasks.
I have a client that began setting aside 2 hours a day 2 times a week for development work about 6 months ago. It was difficult at first, because it was a culture change within her office. It took a few weeks for her staff to not disturb her, for her to realize this time was just as important as any other meetings and to respect that and keep it on her calendar. Today, she loves her development time and treasures it. She has grown and so has her fundraising! •Create a fundraising plan and/or development plan for your organization at the end of each year and stick to it! Set goals for yourself, measure your progress, track your metrics and hold yourself accountable.
Having a plan is one of THE MOST IMPORTANT tools you possess as a development staff. Successful fundraising requires planning. Planning your goals, your donor touches, your grant submissions, your events and so on. This may seem like a lot of work initially, but it will save you time and energy in the long run.
•Prioritize! Don’t let every crisis that comes along determine your course of action. This is the hardest thing for most of us to do.Learn to delegate and learn to say no. Learn when you should decline an invitation to a meeting or event that does not further your personal development agenda and when you need to stay in your office and work. If you can not decide where your time is best spent, make a pros and cons list (quickly) and determine which options will allow you to accomplish more of your goals.
As you are able to incorporate more time management and prioritization to your planning process, you will find that you want to focus on the things you need to ‘check off’ that to-do list. As you set time aside for specific development work, you can assign those times/days with specific tasks like grant research for 1 hour on Tuesday from 10-11, or calling to thank donors on Tuesday from 11-12. When you set aside time for specific tasks it is easier to focus on them, and then move on with your day.
Grant writing often takes a back seat to more immediate work, but if grants are part of a well thought-out development plan, then just as much time and attention needs to be focused on successful research and writing as any other part of the plan.
I would encourage you to consider if grants are a necessary part of your development plan and why you have a focus on grant funds. If there are specific needs that grants will support, then they should be part of a plan. If your nonprofit is simply trying to balance the budget by applying for grant dollars, I would advise strongly against that model. Dependency on grant dollars is a slippery slope.
Best of luck with all your development work this week! Go set aside some time to create a plan for the second half of the year.