I should start this article with the time treasured adage every day as a fundraiser is different. I, personally, would not like to have the same day every day. It is the variety that keeps me energized.
So many people ask me What do I do all day? Or, they assume that my life is consumed with special events. In actuality, my life is focused on a few important headings:
- Family and Friends
- Colleagues (internal and external)
- Prospects and Donors
FAMILY & FRIENDS
It has taken me more time than I would like to admit, but for me, family is paramount. Having a family that is supportive and understanding of my
job vocation is necessary for me to be able to succeed. Those last-minute strategy meetings at 7.00 am with a colleague, or the teleconference with the board at dinner time or the extra time in the office on a weekend putting together budgets — these are but some of the sacrifices that my family makes in order for me to succeed. In this day and age, there isn’t as much focus on typical office hours and many of us carry around our smartphones like tethers to our offices.
I have been really lucky to work with some amazing people. (I’ve also had some not-so-great colleagues, but that will be a different article.) On any given day, my colleagues and I bounce ideas off of each other for new initiatives or issues arising. We strategize as a team to hopefully procure the best result possible. I have an open-door policy and my team realizes that I am always willing to discuss items. As a matter of fact, each week my team members send me an email of their big-picture items that they are working on and that email forms the agenda for our weekly supervisory meetings. It is a venue that I can help my team be as successful as they possibly can be by helping prioritize what needs work or strategizing or just letting them vent. (Annual performance reviews for my team are merely an executive summary of our weekly one-on-ones.)
There are times that one needs to meet with the actual people who deliver the programs that you provide funding for — these folks are great assets to you (and if you don’t meet with them on a regular basis, you won’t know how to help fulfill your donors’ wishes!) Sometimes it’s for a tour, others it’s just a social visit — these front line staff are our goodwill ambassadors and can often set the tone for philanthropy.
I believe that it is equally valuable to meet with others in the fundraising profession on a regular basis. After being in this trade for over 20 years, I have been privileged to come across some really interesting characters and even some great fundraisers. I usually try to set aside a coffee or two each week to meet with external colleagues. While we maintain a high level of confidentiality, we bounce ideas (big picture) off of each other and share common concerns. At the end of the coffee (or beer), we both usually feel much better about whatever problem is facing us and realize that the problem isn’t unique to our specific charity. Think of it as a much cheaper version of therapy!
PROSPECTS & DONORS
It has been said that a good fundraiser should split their time into 3 categories when dealing with prospects/donors — cultivation, active solicitation, and stewardship (which could actually be considered cultivation).
50% Active Solicitation
When it comes to your prospect assignments, this allocation is the standard: at any given time, a quarter of your prospects should be in the cultivation phase, half in active solicitation and the final quarter in stewardship. So, a day in the life of a fundraiser should be spent with many different meetings and phone calls. (Yes, phone calls. Not e-mails. The more personal the touch, the more likely the support.) Tours are a wonderful step in the cultivation process. How many fundraisers would have a hard time articulating all the good works that their organization does, but would really love to show someone their programs. As they say, seeing is believing.
So, a typical day in the life of a fundraiser? It doesn’t exist. Some days will be more internally focused than externally. Some will be head down writing a grant. Some will be endless meetings. But at the end of it all, I cannot think of a better way to spend your time.