I was recently participating in a panel discussion before an audience of fundraising professionals. Most of the people in this room had less than 3 years of experience as professional fundraisers and some had only a few months. One of the participants asked me how to ensure that development officers are spending their time doing only the things that they can do.
And I immediately knew that was a polite way of masking the fact that the development officer felt like her boss was dumping projects on her that kept her from doing what she really wanted to do.
I think that people feel comfortable asking me these type of questions because I’ve walked a few miles in their shoes. I started out in this field fresh out of college. I was the low man on the totem poll. I was traveling, I was out there doing my visits. But all these other tasks were falling on me too.
If there are things you don’t want to do that you believe distract you from your primary work here, my advise to you is to go raise money. Go raise lots of it. Because there came a point in my career when the people who were above me started saying, “why are we asking Clark to do that? If he has to do that he won’t have time to go raise more money.”
The best fundraisers must develop a sort of tunnel vision. There are other things going on in the organization, but there is nothing that is going to distract them from doing the things they need to do to raise big bucks. The best thing you can do is set goals and have a razor sharp focus on those goals. Have them always before you. If your goal is to conduct 150 donor meetings this year, only you can do that. That means you have to have 12.5 meetings a month. You better start booking meetings. I am very big on goal setting. I’m big on having them in front of me all the time. And when you start spending too much time on things that don’t feed into your goals you have to stop yourself.
You may catch a little flack from time to time. But when you’ve put in your time and the checks start coming in I can guarantee that you won’t catch any flack at all.
In the meantime, if you feel like your boss is dumping things on you — get out of the office! If you’re sitting as your desk it’s easy for your boss to walk down the hall and pass something onto you. But if your office is empty because you’re sitting in the living room of your next major donor nobody can bother you with all those mundane tasks. So just get out there.