Too busy for the real strategic priorities?

Published by Hanneke Propitius on

busyThis is a blog special for fundraising managers (and for fundraisers who have the ambition to take over the position of their manager as soon as possible….). I’m going to convince you that, unless you change a few things, all those hours and days spent in developing a long-term fundraising strategy is useless. Waste of time. And time is actually what you and your fundraising team needs the most.

Not enough capacity
If there is something I noticed in the last couple of years, working for different not for profit organisations, it should be this: capacity within the fundraising team is an issue for almost all organisations. There is just too much work to do with a limited number of team members. Because of this, most fundraising teams are busy and stretched. With full agenda’s and lots of meetings for the daily activities and hardly any time to work on the strategic priorities. So why would you develop a strategy anyway, if there is no time to start up the important projects, that are derived from the strategic direction?

Call me crazy, but I have the impression that the workload isn’t getting less for fundraising teams in the coming decade and that the chances for expanding the team are small. So I like to offer a different road that will save time & improve impact on your strategic choices.

I know you are ambitious and that you see threats and opportunities in the market. And you are probably very eager to start up this loyalty strategy, develop new fundraising techniques, or to put up the content marketing strategy. But Rome wasn’t built in one day. You have to limit the number of strategic priorities depending on the team size, experience of the team members and the workload of the daily activities. If you want to get more insight in the current workload: ask team members to keep track of their activities every hour during 2 weeks. You will have enough material to calculate the workload per person.

To get grip of your planning and to know if all the projects are smartly spread over the year, setting up a calendar is an easy tool. It’s just a way of getting all major activities and projects plotted in a week-by-week calendar (excel works for myself). You will soon notice the bottlenecks when you have all the activities in an overview. If you discuss the status of this overview every month, you’ll easily keep easily track of changes or delays.

Translate to individual targets
With the calendar, you have an overview of the activities and workload. But now you have to make sure that everybody in you’re team is working towards the same strategy. Therefor: translate the strategic priorities for coming year/period into annual targets of every team member. Check if there is no overlap between team members and if all priorities are covered. (I don’t have to add that this has to be a SMART defined target?)

Last but not least: a fundraising agency steps into your office with this great new fundraising idea/activity/project. Think twice before you get into this new-not-yet- fully- clear concept. Check if it really fits with the strategic priorities and determine if it will be worth to put your (limited!) capacity in this project. Most new projects are (1) time consuming (because: no experience), take a while to get really started (just like any other fundraising technique) and are limited in fulfilling your strategic priorities.

There are many tools and books to help you out with this. I’m very enthusiastic about the ‘Objective, Goals, Strategies, Measures’ method. Especially the one where they force you to put all the 4 categories on 1 page. If you want to have a format for this: let me know and I will send you one.

Keep up the good work & stay focussed!

Hanneke Propitius

Fundraising & Marketing consultant. Broad experience with fundraising management for several NGO’s like Medecins sans Frontieres, Cordaid, Habitat for Humanity, Oxfam, Stop Aids Now!, FNV Mondial. Working as international fundraising consultant for new markets (i.e. India).


Nicole Cerezo · August 25, 2013 at 18:12

It’s especially important to recognize what skill sets your fundraisers can each contribute, and assign tasks appropriately. Having your team keep a log of how they spend their time is a great way to measure what their individual workload is. After careful evaluation of the logged hours, you will be able to pinpoint any time wasters or unnecessary tasks, and reassign tasks if necessary. A cohesive calendar can ensure that everyone on your team is diligently working to meet the same targeted goals of your organization.

    Hanneke Propitius · August 26, 2013 at 11:29

    Thanks for your contribution Nicole. Putting up a calendar ensures you that all strategic choices (often based in an extensive stratey of worked out in an annualplan) are really covered by activities throughout the year. And more important: for supporting departments (for example database of donor services) the calendar makes it easier to plan the workload an be pro-active.

Simona Biancu · August 25, 2013 at 18:56

Great post, Hanneke! I have found lots of issues I normally deal with in my daily job with NGOs.
The question of organization is, in my opinion, one of the most important preparatory points to set up whichever fundraising strategy. And, in the last two years, the organizational analysis has increasingly been the starting point of my consultancies. Having a clear and precise idea about priorities, staff workload, scheduling, are among the key-points of whatever path (fundraising, communication, marketing).
Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

    Hanneke Propitius · August 26, 2013 at 11:32

    Hi Simona, good to know we all strive for quality in execution! And you are right: it’s more a general management challenge. In the same time I see a lot of fundraising departments get caught into the ‘opportunity trap’ and forgetting to focus on the main priorities.

    Hope to see a blog with your experience about bringing structure in organizations!

      Simona Biancu · August 26, 2013 at 13:13

      Hi Anneke, it seems you have read my mind! I was thinking about a post over organizational questions and management issues, when I read your reply.
      I’ll keep you update…thanks and have a nice day!

Sandy wilson · September 9, 2013 at 17:14

Thank you for your blog on Strategic planning. We are currently in this “painful” yet needed process…And yes, we are very small and very limited people-wise to get everything done. However, we are tying to layout SMART goals that are possible to complete.

I’m interested in getting a copy of your format that puts all 4 categories of Obectives, Goals, Strategies and Measures’ method on 1 page. Thanks for your help.

    Hanneke · September 11, 2013 at 20:41

    Hi Sandy,

    it can indeed be painful (especially choosing what you are not going to do anymore…) But great that you guys took up this process. Especially if you are small NGO focus on strategic goals are key! I’m happy to sent you a copy, please mail me your email and it will be soon in your inbox!
    Good luck.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *