Are you the one person in your office who does everything?

Do you wear “Fundraiser” as one of your many hats and get frustrated when there aren’t enough hours in the day to get everything done?

This is a common lament among staff in small nonprofit organizations.

How you answer that question and respond to it will determine whether or not you’ll be successful in raising money.  If you dread raising money or if you leave it til last, your results will be dismal.  If you embrace it and give it the attention it deserves, you’ll love the results you get.

This is about mindset or how you think about things.  The framework that you use to view the world has a huge impact on how you act and what you do.

Here are some suggestions for staying in a positive mindset when you’re the Lone Ranger of Fundraising.

First, know what it is you’re trying to accomplish.  In other words, have a plan. If you don’t know what needs to get done during the day, you’ll float from one thing to the next and at the end of the day, you’ll wonder what you did, which can give you a sense of uselessness.  Instead, be clear about your goals for the day and focus on getting them done.  At the end of the day, you’ll have a great sense of accomplishment.  To crank this up a notch, keep a journal of everything you got done and good things that happened during the day.  When you focus on the positive, you’ll feel great about your work and it will show!

Second, surround yourself with support.  Most of us have friends we can talk to, but we don’t lean on them until something bad happens.  Instead, put some purposeful support in place.  Have a regular meeting with a mentor or a colleague so that you can air your frustrations in private. Get a coach to help you make decisions and set goals.  Make sure to spend time with people who are a positive influence on you and pull you forward.  I’ve heard it said that we are the average of the 5 people we spend the most time with.  Think on that for a bit.  You might want to change who you’re hanging out with!Do What You Love

Third, play to your strengths.  Do only those things that you are really good at and get help with the rest.  I know, I can hear you saying that you can’t afford to hire anyone. That’s alright.  Recruit a volunteer or get an intern to help you.  Consider outsourcing things that you aren’t good at (for me, that’s bookkeeping!).  Hire a contract person to help write grants if you can’t stand writing.  Just get help.  You might find ways to automate some things so that they don’t take as much time.  And there are probably things you’re doing that you should simply stop doing, because they don’t need to be done in the first place.  Remember, you have limited time and energy and creativity during the day, so spend them on the things that really matter.

Finally, keep your head in the game.  Be passionate about the cause you are working for and spend time regularly on the front lines to fire up that passion. This can help you more than anything else!  Looking someone in the face who is receiving help from your nonprofit and seeing them smile might be all you need to keep your heart burning and your mind focused on the things you need to do.

When you work in a small organization, it’s easy to get resentful of the “big” nonprofits, because they have lots of staff and scads of volunteers and they get all the big donors, right?  If that thought or a variation of it runs through you head, I want you to kick it out and replace it with something better. Just remember that every big nonprofit was once exactly where yours is.  The only difference is that someone at that big organization hung in there and stayed focused, and good things started to happen.

You hang in there and it can happen for you, too!

  1. Sandy, I think a common action taken by small offices is to NOT hire a development staff person because they don’t see the financial value. There is much to do to stay connected to supporters and having board members and at least one staff focus on just that can make a huge difference in the health of the development efforts. I urge my clients to remember development is a program too and you wouldn’t have staff doing the counseling and expect only volunteers or the CEO doing it, why do the same with fund development? Being creative with part-time or contract staff can be a good place to start. Here’s my take on “doing it all”: I’ll do it. All of it.

  2. Sandy,
    Really great tips. I want to underscore your idea to get professional support from outside of your organization. Find yourself a mentor at a larger organization or a seasoned professional…. you’ll not only find the support, but can find tips and learn more about the next new technology from someone with a significantly more well-endowed development budget.
    And of course, joining professional associations like AFP.
    And don’t overlook all those vendors out there… they are a great source of knowledge about fundraising.

  3. Hi Sandy!

    There is a fabulous article in Mother Jones this week about how we are asked to do too much in our professional lives, and I honestly used to think it was a fundraising professional issue. However, this article goes into detail how this is not just a nonprofit problem, but it’s happening across all sorts of sectors, from air traffic controllers to teachers, from pepsi truck drivers to hotel maids, we’re all asked to become more productive, more efficient, to take on more and more without the equivalent pay increase. So I’d love to get your thoughts on this, and I’m actually blogging about this on Thursday, but here’s the mother jones article to get you started.

    Looking forward to hearing your thoughts about this, Sandy,


  4. Sandy, great motivation for small shops – or shops of any size. I want to chime in with a strategy that works for me – keep learning. Is the saying, “fear of the unknown”? Well, there’s a book or CD about it. So, spend some of your leisure reading learning about an area that will help your organization. It isn’t uncommon that my leisure reading has pumped up my professional success.

  5. Your tips are insightful. Raising funds is truly the lifeblood of any non-profit organization. You need people who aim for excellence. People who do not want to settle for anything less, but are willing to do their best for the organization. With these people, the organization will surely thrive.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *