The Power Of Documenting

Our conversation was about succession—and how difficult that is with a one person office or department. No one is trained to take over, and once you’ve gone so goes corporate history. This problem is exacerbated when the job in question is one where turnover is high. Development directors, for example, tend to move on every 18 months. And while there are those who stay for the long run, most do not. And since too many are too busy just doing, they never spend the time to document, create records, write down the plan explaining what you are doing, when you are doing it and all the other details that make up a planning document.

If you a one person office—or the one person who does what you do—do yourself and everyone around you a big favor: start documenting your job.

Think how it would be if in your next job you walked in and knew what your predecessor had been up to. If you understood which activities and techniques were working—and which were not. If you could simply jump in to maintain while considering what you specially wanted to accomplish and what changes that would mean.

Instead of having to spend a year getting up to speed, you could be up and running immediately. You would know what happens when, and what your next task needed to be. You wouldn’t be faced with discovering that, actually, there always had been a spring appeal and that—gulp—it was one of the biggest revenue builders. Sorry we forgot to tell you!

You could also look at a file and see what was going on with that major donor prospect, and how you can best approach him or her. In short, you would have a roadmap for the exciting new journey you were about to undertake.

Now think how wonderful that will be for you in your current job. Instead of reinventing wheels all the time; trying to remember what you were supposed to be doing, it was all there, laid out for you. Instead of spending time thinking “What” you can be focusing on “how” and that, I promise, will be far more productive.


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