Finding the Time for Grassroots Fundraising

Dear Kim,

I have tried to follow the advice in the Grassroots Fundraising Journal and from you, Andy Robinson, Stephanie Roth, and other grassroots fundraising experts. What you all say makes sense. Having said that, I hope you don’t find my question rude: where do you find the time to really implement all this advice? I am a relatively efficient person and I already work my 40 hours and then some every week. Being in touch with more donors, doing research on prospects, keeping our social media presence vibrant? Something is always not getting done. Any tips?

~Running out of Time

Dear Running,

You are not rude at all and you are raising a key issue for all of us: time. Time is our most precious non-renewable resource. For every living being, it is running out. When we choose to do something, we automatically choose to not do something else, and setting appropriate priorities is a constant balancing act.

I have one overarching tip for you based on a dangerous practice I have of reading between the lines of Dear Kim’s. I read between the lines that you try to do most things yourself and I recommend that you shift your priorities to finding other people to help you. This will not save time—you have to find these volunteers, train them, appreciate them, and often then watch them walk away to something else. But over time, you will build a team of people who can help you.

For example, I know one man who is quite disabled and very rarely leaves his home. He is a volunteer for an organization and every morning he posts something about the group on Facebook and Twitter. He responds to comments on any social media the group uses. He goes through the website and makes sure that all the links are working and twice a month donates $5 through the donation portal to make sure that is working. He is de facto in charge of social media for this organization. I mention him because I think a lot of working with volunteers and delegating tasks to them is playing to their strengths. He can’t really visit donors and he has a hard time speaking on the phone or coming to meetings. But he can do this very valuable task.

In other organizations, I see students doing prospect research and board members taking charge of the newsletter. Anything that a reasonably intelligent person can do with a little bit of training should be moved to such a person, freeing you for complicated work or work that is not appropriate for a volunteer.

My other tip is to focus on relationships that are long term. Work with donors who have given for many years and cultivate donors who really understand the work of the organization and are not just drawn to an event or shiny new program. And finally, know that you will never get everything done, or most days, even half of what you planned. That’s OK. Work your 40 hours and for the most part, don’t work more than that. It is more important that you stay in the job than that you burn yourself out.

And toward that end, stop reading this and go do something fun.

~Kim Klein