Getting It Done!

Every October the organization sends out its end of the year appeal. Except when it Cal2doesn’t. And when it does, it’s always a last minute scramble. Ditto for the appeal that goes out (or doesn’t!) in May. And the gala that happens (always, for better or worse) in March. These are things that (should be) happen(ing) every single year. So why the panic? The occasional missing of a standard deadline? “We’re so busy,” I am told. “We had too much to do.” Poppycock, I say. Poppycock.

Like these organizations, my consulting practice is small. Smaller, I’ll wager, than their organization. It is just me. And yet, monthly I am able to do my billing. And write and produce my website. Weekly I get a blog out. And in-between? I teach an online class, do face-to-face trainings, board retreats, coaching, consulting, and yes! marketing myself so I am too busy to ignore all the things that must be done.

Am I wonder woman? Hardly. But I do keep an ongoing “To do” list and I calendar my work and when I do drop a ball, I pick it up as soon as I see it lying there, alone and on the floor, admit my error and try to fix what my inattention has wrought.

Whew! That was one long sentence.

There are so many ways to make yourself more productive. There are books and articles and time-management gurus. But in the end, it is really all about you and taking responsibility for what you must accomplish.

If you are the development director, guess what? You better have a written plan and calendar for getting out those appeals and whatever else is on your plate. If October is a crazy busy month, are there things you can move back into September or August (think writing your appeal in the quiet times; think writing one appeal and just updating it annually)?

Can you work with your volunteers and make them truly useful? You can. But it does take time and effort. Are there other staff members who might be able to pick up some of your easier to handle overflow?

Above all, don’t waste time making excuses. Guess what? Most people don’t care. Pointing fingers often are simply pointing out that ball on the ground, and all the pointer cares about is that you pick it up. I know. I point a lot, and nothing irritates me more than someone wasting time—mine and theirs—explaining why the ball dropped in the first place and why it wasn’t their fault. I don’t care. Just pick it up and move it to wherever it needs to be.

Start with a simple calendar. Put in everything with a deadline. Then fill in the various benchmarks you’ll need to meet in order to hit that deadline easily. Now think about things that have to be done but there really isn’t a specific timeframe. For example, one on one meetings with board members, cultivation meetings, the things you need to do to identify prospective new donors. Plug those in wherever you can.

And then, once you have this calendar—put it in a prominent place. Keep adding things as necessary. And most important, follow it. Daily.

Janet Levine works with nonprofits helping them to get fundraising done.  Learn how she can help your organization at  While there, sign up for the newsletter and contact Janet for a free 30-minute consultation