This is a guest post written by Janice Chan, who often writes for our friends at Wethos over at The Wethos Collective blog. In over a decade in the nonprofit sector, Janice has written fundraising appeals and grant proposals, led social media outreach, managed volunteers, executed rollout plans, managed donor and program databases, and learned the hard way that changing to a new website host means you’d better make sure that donation form still works!
Feeling burned out? I know this sounds counterintuitive, but put aside your to-do list for 30 minutes. Turn off your notifications, hide your phone, if need be, hide yourself in a conference room where your coworkers can’t find you. (Okay, maybe tell one person who understands the true meaning of the word emergency. You know, in case there is a fire or something.)
Then use that 30 minutes to brainstorm ways that you can get more hours back in your day. It takes time to make time. What would make it easier/less frustrating to do your job? Review everything currently on your to-do list and ask yourself these three questions.
Do you actually need to do this?
The quickest way to get back time is to go down your list and ask, of each item, “What will be lost by NOT doing this?”
At the micro level, this can be steps in a process. One low-lift example: Can you streamline an approval process? Maybe certain people only need to sign off if certain criteria are in play.
At micro and macro levels, re-evaluate wants vs. needs — just as you would with your budget. Maybe you want to run more events to attract new donors, but maybe what you really need to do is focus on continuing to build relationships with grassroots donors. Or maybe you want to revamp your website, but what you really need is a better digital strategy. Perhaps it is worth engaging a team of digital strategists to help you assess what items will have the most impact.
Do you need to do this?
Are you the only person who can do this? It can be scary to let go of things that you’re good at, or that you’ve always done. At the same time, it can be incredibly freeing not to shoulder a particular responsibility all by your lonesome. For example, to go on vacation and know that other people can handle things.
As you go down your list, consider whether any of these items could be good growth opportunities for a colleague. Or, perhaps, it is a tedious task that needs to be done but could be a little more evenly distributed than it currently is. What’s holding you back from delegating? Another low-lift strategy would be writing up a how-to guide (which is also important knowledge management, should you ever win the Powerball) or taking a screencast or training others. Ensuring organizational continuity is always time well spent now to free up your time later on.
Remember to leverage all the people on your team. For example, is your board fundraising? If not, perhaps it’s time to talk to board members about expectations.
Trying to figure out something new? Your nonprofit is probably not the first organization to tackle this challenge. For example, your cause is suddenly thrust into the news and the spotlight, and you need to come up with a fundraising plan yesterday! Or, you could take a page from these best practices in rapid response fundraising from AB Charities.
Is heavier lifting required?
Sometimes it is worth examining the opportunity cost of you doing X, when you could be making a bigger impact in other areas. Maybe you’d like to keep your hand on the wheel, but could get there faster with help, whether it’s extra hands or a particular skill set your team needs support with. There’s no shame in raising your hand — in fact, it requires maturity and confidence to ask for help. It’s what we often encourage others to do.
Admittedly, it can be challenging to ask for help when you’re not sure what you need. Wethos collaborative teams and the AB Charities team are always ready to support you and can even help you figure out what is needed.
Could this be accomplished differently?
We are often so busy getting things done that we forget to pick our heads up and survey the changing landscape — and sometimes we miss things, like technology that might make our jobs and lives easier!
Things you can do this week
How can I increase the number of people who see our email appeal? It’s not only about growing your list. If an email performs really well, consider resending it to those who didn’t open it the first time using a different subject line.
How can I get our donors to share our content on social media? Make it easy for them to share with custom content they can share with the click of a button.
A/B Testing, because I don’t have enough to do. Choose a fundraising platform like AB Charities that is constantly being improved with large-scale A/B testing.
How do we make our website more accessible? We all know we should, but it seems so complicated.
There are some simple things you can do yourself to be a better #a11y, such as making sure you choose colors with high enough contrast.
You can also reach out to Wethos to have the support of a collaborative team that incorporates accessibility into their web design, like their team that worked on the Leadership Conference on Civil & Human Rights’ campaign Students Deserve Better, which increased their conversion by 20%.
Compound time saved with smarter habits
Does this need to be done in the office? Offices can be great for collaboration-heavy projects, but they are full of distractions. When you need to focus on a thinking-heavy project, perhaps it would be better to work off-site.
Should this be a meeting or an email or a phone call? Do everybody a favor and make a habit of asking this question regularly!
Invest upfront to multiply your time later
Could this be automated? And if so, how? It can seem overwhelming to start, and there’s no shame in asking for some expert help. Here are some other resources:
Have you heard of remarketing? If not, AB Charities has you covered!
Already asking for recurring gifts? Check out the Smart Recurring feature from AB Charities.
How can I spend less time cleaning up bad data? Prevent bad data and avoid awkward conversations with donors by designing for more efficient data management and by investing in data stewardship upfront.
Are our platforms and systems meeting our needs? Switching is no small feat, but when you spend more time on workarounds than your actual work, it’s worth exploring if a different CRM or fundraising platform may better meet your current and future needs.
Reach out to the nonprofit community about their experiences.
Check to see if you can get a product donation or a discount as a nonprofit.
How can I spend less time coming up with social media content or searching for great stories for the next fundraising appeal?
Use these three low-cost strategies for capturing compelling content to build your inventory.
Am I spending my time in the right places? Take a short dive into the data.
Consider whether you’re focusing on the right donor segments.
Do we need to grow our capacity? Consider spending one hour a week to learn something new — whether it’s a webinar or reading a blog post or connecting with peers. Even if it’s not immediately applicable, learning new things can be energizing. Sometimes we need to be reminded of the possibilities.
And if it is a thorny project that desperately needs to be tackled? Engaging a collaborative team of experts can help get you over a large one-time hurdle while also providing an opportunity to gain expertise you don’t currently have in-house.
Overwhelmed? Start somewhere, start anywhere — just start!
One pause and one deep breath can lead to another. I wrote this down so that you can come back to the resources and ideas. No need to tackle this all at once. Or alone — the AB Charities team is always available to help you with your digital fundraising, and Wethos collaborative teams are available to support you with a broad range of skill sets.
But now when you get overwhelmed, you can ask those three questions: Do I need to do this, do I alone need to be the one to do this, and could this be done a different way?