Are You Still Too Busy To Fundraise?

“I’ve become a poster child for being ‘Too Busy to Fundraise,’” she wrote.  She’s not the only one.  So many of my clients are telling me the same thing.  They are busy, very busy, but not with the work that (a) they were hired to do and (b) is so critical for the well being of their organizations. One is working on an accreditation.  Another has been put in charge of a program review process.  Still another has been made chair of her organization’s risk management committee.  They’ve been put in charge of the annual holiday party—the one for the staff—or are shopping around insurance policies, employee benefit packages, checking out new equipment.

And those who are spending their days with development, it’s more on the administrative side—upgrading the database, making sure that the policies are up to date, and in at least one case, purchasing new furniture and computers.

Mind you, these are all important—but are they necessary things for the development directors to be focusing on.  Seems to me, especially when an organization has a one-person development office, there are better things for the development director to be doing.


  • Making sure that every single donor has one last change to lower his or her taxes by making a charitable gift this calendar year.
  • Thanking everyone for everything they did this year
  • Calling those who haven’t actually done anything in 2012, but had in 2011.
  • Finishing up grant proposals or grant reports that are due this year
  • Researching to see if there are any end-of-the-year opportunities for funding that should be taken care of.  That includes contacting all your corporate and local foundation folks to find out if there happens to be some money left over that they could dole out
  • Contacting every board member (yes, again!) to ensure that they are following their development plan (which, of course, you’ve developed with them).  If not, what do they need (and if is developing a plan for them, make an appointment to do that before next year rolls around).
  • Checking your top whatever number list and making sure that things are moving forward with every top prospect.  If things aren’t yet moving forward, making sure that there is a plan to move things forward for these prospects as you move into next year
  • Researching the next tier of prospects, figuring out who are their natural partners and what strategies should be employed to engage them.
  • Making cultivation calls, with and without your board, your ED, your program staff

And these are just the tip of the iceberg.

If you are a development director, then development must be your priority.  If your boss, your board, some internal voice, tells you otherwise, you need to rethink your job and the importance of advancing your organization forward. If development is not critical to your organization, then perhaps being the development director isn’t the job you want to have.  And if it is important (as I suspect it really is), then you need to be given the time, and the resources to be the best, most successful development director possible.


Janet Levine works with nonprofits, helping them to increase fundraising capacity and build stronger boards and professional staff.  Learn more at  While there, sign up for her free, monthly newsletter