What We Do When We Aren't Fundraising

One of the things I noodle about a lot is how people spend their time.  I admit that I have a failure of imagination in understanding what makes a lot of people so busy that they can’t get to things that seem important to me.  And yes, it is all about me (except, of course, when it is about you). This particular bout of thinking was precipitated by a frustrating few weeks when several of my clients were too busy to see me.  And, honestly, this isn’t personal pique.  These clients hired me because they wanted to move forward in their fundraising efforts and were having difficulty getting where they wanted to go.  And here we were, forward movement impeded because they were too busy to think about fundraising, let alone complete the (small!) tasks that need to be completed before we can move forward.  Circular thinking, indeed.

In some cases, I do get it.  There is no professional fundraising staff, and the ED and Board members really are dancing as fast as they can.  But in others, where there is a development director—sometimes there is even additional fundraising staff—I don’t understand how they can have so much to do that it is impossible to focus on the fundraising efforts they identified as critical.

If I sound like I am throwing a tantrum, well, I am.

So many nonprofits never seem to get beyond crisis fundraising.  They are too busy keeping the doors open to stop and consider that perhaps there is a better way.  That maybe, instead of holding the door open by themselves, perhaps a door stop, or magnets, or a chair tipped under the doorknob would do just as good a job—and would free them to consider how to improve funding for the things that go on (or should be going on) beyond those doors.

The most important step in solving a problem—and not fundraising, it seems to me, is a serious problem for most nonprofits—is first being able to articulate what is going on.  So what—really, honestly, truly—is keeping you from fundraising (or keeping you from doing what needs to be done to move the fundraising you are doing to a higher level)?  What makes you too busy to take the steps necessary that will put your organization on firmer financial footing?

This is not a rhetorical question.  We can all cite meetings, reports, staff, stuff that get in our way.  But the truth is usually a lot closer to home.  It’s easier to focus on things that have a clear beginning and end (meetings, filing, entering names in the database) than ones that with each step bring yet another set of actions.

It’s more fun if there is no chance of rejection—and fundraising is full of that.  More people will say no—to whatever you are asking—than will say yes.  It’s a fact of life, and while it’s not fun, you shouldn’t need a suicide watch when you hear no (or worse—get no response at all).

It’s easier to do what feels comfortable.  And that tends to be whatever you’ve been doing (or not doing, as the case may be).  But when you do get out of your comfort zone, amazing  (or at least interesting) things start to happen.

So, first, stop being too busy to fundraise.  Then commit to using that time to (a) plan your fundraising work and then, (b) work your fundraising plan.

And if you have a coach or consultant, commit to a regular time-certain to work with her and then to tackle the tasks you agree to during those sessions.


Janet Levine works with nonprofit and educational organizations, helping them NOT to be Too Busy to Fundraise, and to raise a lot more money than they have before.  Learn more at http://janetlevineconsulting.com