Let’s face it. The non-profit advancement officer is mightily challenged these days. Especially in a small staffing situation often challenged with constant distractions and new opportunities. There simply aren’t enough hours in the day. This is a common reality for the small shop, and unless addressed in a responsible way, it can paralyze progress and frustrate even the most dedicated professional.
More and more tasks are added to your day, but nothing comes off the the “to do” list. This may be the time when a realistic analysis of your workday is necessary. So here is a possible solution. Consider a “reboot” of your work regimen, by “shutting down” for half a day or more to take a tough, realistic assessment of your job responsibilities. Taking such action can be difficult and has its own set of consequences. But consider the alternative. Can you sustain your current work load for the long term? For how much longer can you maintain a forced smile, log extra hours in evenings and weekends, or soldier bravely on through times of personal illness or family crises?
Most importantly, you must ask yourself a key question. Is your work achieving measurable and desirable results for your organization? If the answer is no, then rebooting is not only desirable, but necessary.
Think first of shedding tasks that are not critical to your mission. Are they low-value special events that could be phased out or done every other year? Are there reports that could be simplified or eliminated? How much of your day is devoted simply to responding to the crises of others, but not relevant to your own work role? Can you communicate firmly, but with good humor, that “problem” issues will be resolved when there is enough time to address them. And be aware of the “self-perpetuating” tasks. These are tasks that serve no purpose, but are done because “we’ve always done it this way.” You cannot do this alone; you will need help and cooperation from your boss and co-workers. Ideally, prioritizing and shedding work tasks should be a team effort.
The goal is to make yourself more relevant to the most important tasks at hand, and jettison or restructure tasks that are not essential. A “reboot” can make you a more effective professional, and your non-profit more successful.
Tom S. Landrum has more than 40 years experience in institutional advancement, including work in communications, fund raising and alumni relations. He has been involved in four comprehensive capital campaigns, and led a fund raising team at the University of Georgia that set records by raising more than $100 million a year. Tom serves as a senior consultant for the Lighthouse Counsel team.