Perfect Timing: How to make the Most of your Fundraising Day

 The magical expanding job

One of the things that is so troubling about our nonprofit jobs is that they seem to expand to fill in the time available.

We have huge roles, we cannot go away from our desks for even a moment, right?

Did you know Winston Churchill swore by his afternoon nap? He wrote,

“Nature has not intended mankind to work from eight in the morning until midnight without that refreshment of blessed oblivion which, even if it only lasts twenty minutes, is sufficient to renew all the vital forces.”

John F. Kennedy napped for 1 to 2 HOURS every day he was president.

Maybe you can’t nap at work. But your effectiveness diminishes exponentially if you don’t walk away after a decent amount of time.

Well, if you want to be more effective at your job, you MUST walk away.

Not at 9pm. Not at 7pm. At 5pm.

You can say, “Well, it’s easy for you to say, Mazarine, you don’t have my boss, or all of the responsibilities that I have!”

And that is true.

I have other responsibilities. Like marketing, fundraising, business management, building relationships with people (like you do!), tracking income, staff meetings (okay that’s not true, I don’t have boring staff meetings anymore), helping my coaching clients fundraise, website design, expenses tracking, making presentations, and writing everyday. And if I shirk them, I don’t eat.

I can honestly say I work harder on my business than I did at any fundraising job, and I worked really hard at my fundraising jobs.

So, you know, we’re all under pressure.

Sometimes our bosses are not nearly as hard on us as we are on ourselves. And sometimes they are much much worse than we are. The thing is, even after you leave a job, that boss can live on in your head, until you tyrannize yourself. It’s kinda nuts. It took me awhile to figure that one out too.

Get in, get out and get on with your life.

“Mazarine!” I can hear you yelling. “No! The cause is too important for that attitude!”

Yeah, the cause is important. So is your life. No job is worth more than 40 hours of your week, especially when you are salaried and not getting paid more if you work more.

Recently I met a fundraiser who was so overtaken by her job that she had to have a medical leave of absence, for severe headaches. She worked 70 hour workweeks for years, and for all of this she was rewarded with more work.

I have my own stories about how I nearly worked myself to death. I’m sure you can think of friends who work and get sick routinely.

This is a sickness, and it needs to stop. It doesn’t matter how much work you have. That work will always be there.

What matters is the life you have outside of work.

We need to protect our time, because it is a finite resource, and none of the people in your office are going to go to your funeral.


So, how do you manage your time so you can get in and get out and get on with your life?

Try breaking your day into 4 mini-days.

Or you can break it up this way:

8-9am – List-time. If you like getting up early and getting to work before 9am, this could be the perfect time to make a list of things you want to do for the day. If your boss is there, and you have a good relationship, have a 5 minute meeting where you talk about what you’ll do for the day.

9-10am – Do the hardest thing first. Call 3 donors. Go on. Call them and say hi. They probably won’t pick up. But for a lot of us secret introverts, this is the hardest, and most important thing. Build those relationships, 3 calls at a time.

10-11am – Invest some time in looking at your fundraising plan for the year. What are you going to do today to help achieve one of the things on that plan? Go do it. Writing grants? Calling a sponsor? Meeting a board member to talk major gift solicitation?

11-12pm – Chat with a staff member about how their day is going. One of the most appalling things that happens in just about every nonprofit is the way fundraising staff are siloed off from program staff. It’s hard to fight this trend. But you gotta try. Why? Because it’s a good way to make friendships at work. People like to work with their friends. And you can ask them if they’ve got any interesting stories from last week they’d like to share.

12-1pm GO OUTSIDE or TAKE A NAP or LUNCH! Yes, I know you usually eat at your desk. This is a whole new day though, so I encourage you to eat somewhere else. Even if it’s just outside on a bench.

1-2pm Come back, refreshed, and revitalized, and do something you really enjoy. Maybe it’s sending out a proposal. Maybe it’s writing the weekly newsletter. Maybe it’s laying out the annual report. Whatever it is, go to it with a will!

2-3pm Dedicate yourself to learning something new about fundraising. Read a blog, or a chapter of a book that’s been sitting, neglected, on your shelf. Reading is very important. Continuing education could cost as little as some library late fees and some notecards. If you don’t do this now, when will you do it?


3-4pm Take a look at your emails and voicemails, and answer them. Why is this at the bottom of the list? Because this is something that is urgent, but not important. And remember, you don’t have to answer every email. Or every voicemail. Just the ones that really need a response right now.

4-5pm Tidy up. Where? Your desk. Your shelves. Get things ready for tomorrow. It’s always easier to work at a desk that is clean.

5pm GO HOME.

GO HOME??!?!

I know this is probably counter to everything you’ve ever done in your fundraising office. This might feel unnatural at first. You might get some dirty looks from people who want you to work until 7pm FOR NO GOOD REASON.

But, as my cousin Joy, a yoga teacher, says, “The wonderful thing about life is that you can always make new choices.”

Imagine that.

You don’t have to keep doing things this way just because you always have. They are not going to fire you for leaving at 5pm.  You can make a new choice. And then go do something that you love just for fun.


If you’d like to get more self care tips and feel good about taking naps, then you simply MUST come to our virtual career conference! We’re going to talk about self care and how you can support not just your mission, but your own health by making new healthy habits. 🙂

Check out the Virtual fundraising career conference in Spring 2017.

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