Good Fundraising Habits

Five days a week, I spend 30 minutes on the treadmill.  To lessen the boredom, I listen to podcasts and classes from iTune University.  Lately, I’ve been entranced by a philosophy course from Yale Open University.  At the beginning of the course, the professor asked if any of the students were willing to commit to turning off the internet—primarily Facebook—during class.  About 80% said yes. In the middle of the course, she took a poll, seeing how well they were doing, and today, listening to the ultimate class I learned that more than 50% didn’t do well at that at all.

Creating good habits is hard.  And breaking them is really easy.  Take my five days a week on the treadmill.  I hate that part of my workout.  So I have certain things I do to keep me treading—so many minutes for so many miles for so many calories.  And, as long as I do that five days a week, I get it done.  But miss a day, take a week off, and I have to recreate the wheel all over again.

It’s like with almost everything we do.  I advise my students and clients that they should block out 20-30 minutes a day to make sure that they do something personal with their donors.  Make a phone call, write a handwritten note, send out an article they think the donor will enjoy, arrange for a meeting.  Something, anything.  And they love that idea.  Surely 20-30 minutes a day is really doable.  Until it’s not, and then get getting back into that grove is really hard.

Today, in the Asking Matters Blog, there was an article that talked about setting aside one day a week to focus on Major Donors.  And, like all advice (mine included), it sounds like such a terrific idea.  It is a terrific idea—if only you can convince everyone else around you that it is a wonderful thing for you to do.  If everything else would agree and meetings would not be set, deadlines pushed forward, habits so hard to make.

Still, both ideas are worthwhile.  And will be more doable if you develop metrics to keep you on track.

So maybe a half hour today won’t work today—but if you’ve committed to touching 3-5 donors in that half hour, can you figure out some way to add those to the next three days, or squeeze them in, five minutes at a time?  Do this long enough—six weeks usually creates a habit—and you’ll find that meeting those measurements will be so important to your mental health (not to mention your fundraising numbers), that you will figure out a way to keep yourself on track, or, as I do, treading away.

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