Too busy for the real strategic priorities?

This is a blog special for fundraising managers (and for fundraisers who have the ambition to take over the position of their manager as soon as possible….). I’m going to convince you that, unless you change a few things, all those hours and days spent in developing a long-term fundraising strategy is useless. Waste of time. And time is actually what you and your fundraising team needs the most.

Not enough capacity
If there is something I noticed in the last couple of years, working for different not for profit organisations, it should be this: capacity within the fundraising team is an issue for almost all organisations. There is just too much work to do with a limited number of team members. Because of this, most fundraising teams are busy and stretched. With full agenda’s and lots of meetings for the daily activities and hardly any time to work on the strategic priorities. So why would you develop a strategy anyway, if there is no time to start up the important projects, that are derived from the strategic direction?

Call me crazy, but I have the impression that the workload isn’t getting less for fundraising teams in the coming decade and that the chances for expanding the team are small. So I like to offer a different road that will save time & improve impact on your strategic choices.

I know you are ambitious and that you see threats and opportunities in the market. And you are probably very eager to start up this loyalty strategy, develop new fundraising techniques, or to put up the content marketing strategy. But Rome wasn’t built in one day. You have to limit the number of strategic priorities depending on the team size, experience of the team members and the workload of the daily activities. If you want to get more insight in the current workload: ask team members to keep track of their activities every hour during 2 weeks. You will have enough material to calculate the workload per person.

To get grip of your planning and to know if all the projects are smartly spread over the year, setting up a calendar is an easy tool. It’s just a way of getting all major activities and projects plotted in a week-by-week calendar (excel works for myself). You will soon notice the bottlenecks when you have all the activities in an overview. If you discuss the status of this overview every month, you’ll easily keep easily track of changes or delays.

Translate to individual targets
With the calendar, you have an overview of the activities and workload. But now you have to make sure that everybody in you’re team is working towards the same strategy. Therefor: translate the strategic priorities for coming year/period into annual targets of every team member. Check if there is no overlap between team members and if all priorities are covered. (I don’t have to add that this has to be a SMART defined target?)

Last but not least: a fundraising agency steps into your office with this great new fundraising idea/activity/project. Think twice before you get into this new-not-yet- fully- clear concept. Check if it really fits with the strategic priorities and determine if it will be worth to put your (limited!) capacity in this project. Most new projects are (1) time consuming (because: no experience), take a while to get really started (just like any other fundraising technique) and are limited in fulfilling your strategic priorities.

There are many tools and books to help you out with this. I’m very enthusiastic about the ‘Objective, Goals, Strategies, Measures’ method. Especially the one where they force you to put all the 4 categories on 1 page. If you want to have a format for this: let me know and I will send you one.

Keep up the good work & stay focussed!

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