The Top 10 Tech Tools for More Productive Fundraising

The Top 10 Tech Tools for More Productive Fundraising

Technology is both a blessing and a curse when it comes to fundraising, or almost any kind of work.  It can be a huge help or it can be a frustrating time suck.  The key is making smart decisions by using the right tool for the right task at the right time.  We’re not technology experts at Productive Fundraising, but we’ve certainly been around the fundraising scene long enough to know a great tool when we see one.  Here are our ten favorite tech tools for more productive fundraising …

  1. Your Fundraising Database
    Let’s start with the most obvious place first … your database.  And I certainly hope you have a fundraising database.  Excel and Outlook are not fundraising databases, they are places to dump information … not tools that make you more efficient.  Getting information back out of your database is just as important as having a place to put it, and that is not easy with spreadsheets and contact files.  When it comes to fundraising databases there are tons of options out there.  We’re currently partial to Bloomerang and NeonCRM.  Both of these products offer monthly fees that are based on the size of your donor base, so they grow with you and do not require large up front cash investments.  The key is to make sure your database is right-sized for your organization.  You don’t need something with every feature if you’ll never have the time to use them.
  2. TextExpander
    Have you ever noticed how it seems like you’re typing the same thing over and over again … especially with emails?  Well, there’s a tool to help with that called TextExpander.  TextExpander lets you instantly insert snippets of text from a repository of emails, boilerplate and other content, as you type – using a quick search or abbreviation.  Our favorite time to use it?  When sending donor visit request emails.  If you’ve been following us for long you know that we advocate using an optimized template for these requests.  So if you’re using a template why not make it easy?  We can insert this template into our email simply by typing “\donor” in the subject line of a new email.  TextExpander handles the rest … here’s a video we compiled a few months back showing this in action.  We also use this tool for doing things like following up with potential event attendees, sending birthday greetings and reaching out to keep in touch with donors and contacts.  TextExpander is a paid service, but we’ve found it to be well worth the minimal annual investment.
  3. Pocket
    Pocket is probably our favorite tool on this list.  It is a handy tool that keeps you on task and ensures that you are always learning something new … two essential keys to productive fundraising.  Pocket lets you save all that great content you find when browsing the web and social media, without using precious blocks of time in the middle of your work day to read it.  When you find something you want to view later, you simply put it in your Pocket.  You can put articles, videos or pretty much anything into Pocket using a simple button directly from your browser or using the share feature in apps.  If it’s in your Pocket, it’s on your phone, tablet or computer. You don’t even need an Internet connection.  You can then use all those little snippets of time in your day (waiting rooms, waiting on hold, etc.) to be productive and learn something rather than aimlessly flip through your Facebook news feed.  It’s a win-win … staying on task and making snippets of dead time productive.  And it’s a free service!
  4. Evernote
    If you haven’t gone paperless, we’d encourage you to highly consider it.  It is life changing and freeing.  You are never worried about where something is, it’s simply always with you.  The tool that makes this all work is Evernote.  Evernote lets you collect what matters and find it when you need it, wherever you are.  You can write notes, capture ideas, clip pages from the web, scan statements and receipts and even record your voice. With Evernote on your computer, phone, and the web, your notes are always with you and always in sync.  Plus their easy search feature means you can find what you need when you need it, even handwriting in images.  Guess where we keep track of blog post ideas?  Yep … Evernote.  We recommend getting started by putting one type of information in Evernote.  See how that goes and then move your life there … it’s a journey.
  5. Spokeo
    So let’s say you send one of your donors a personal note in the mail and it gets returned as undeliverable, what do you do?  Yes you can search Google or the white pages but often times they are not adequate.  You need a good research tool that can pull together all the public data and let you figure out where your donor went.  Have they moved?  Are they at a seasonal address?  Our go to tool (because of its affordability) is Spokeo.  Spokeo lets you look individuals up by name, narrow in to find the right person and then access all of the public data available on them.  It’s often a good way to find a missing email address as well (but don’t just automatically add them to your list, you don’t want to be a spammer).
  6. Feedly
    There are bunch of great fundraising thought leaders out there putting out amazing content (for free) just about every day.  There’s so much quality information that it can get overwhelming and it is very easy to miss great content.  Subscribing to all of their email newsletters just makes your inbox a train wreck.  So, we recommend putting them all into an RSS aggregator like Feedly.  Then you can just spend a bit of time every few days flipping through the headlines and save what you would like to read to your Pocket (with one click).  Then when you read it in Pocket and find something you want to implement it you can save it to your Evernote (with one click).  See what we did there?  A lot of these tools work great together to optimize your workflow.
  7. Doodle
    We coordinate a heck of a lot of meetings as fundraisers.  If you’re scheduling these by sending emails back and forth to committee members you’re wasting a lot of time (and driving them nuts).  Thankfully there’s a far better option, check out Doodle.  Here’s how it works … you select dates and times that work for you using their intuitive website.  This creates a poll which you invite your attendees to view.  With the invitation, participants can select their preferences. They don’t even need an account.  Once the votes are in, you select the option that works for the most people and notify the attendees.  It’s easy as pie (and the basic service level is free).
  8. Auction Management System
    An auction management system can really streamline special event auction coordination and make it a much more enjoyable process for your guests.  After you enter your auction items into the system, it can handle time-consuming tasks like generating bid sheets, catalogs, bidder reports and preview websites with the click of a button.  On the donor’s end the addition of an inexpensive credit card reader to a laptop allows you offer real-time check out and even pre-swipe credit cards to expedite checkout.  Our current auction management system of choice is Auctria (formerly Charity Auction Organizer).  It offers an affordable annual license which is adequate for most small to midsize nonprofit organizations.
  9. Image Editing Websites
    So much of the content that we generate is much more appealing in a visual format.  Our donors are far more likely to read something if it is graphical or includes an image.  Thankfully you no longer have to be a graphic designer to be able to produce nice, simple, clean images that enhance your messaging.  There are a bunch of free websites that allow you to create sharp images with text overlays (or even your logo) on top of free stock images.  Our current favorite is Pablo, but this seems to change every few months.
  10. LastPass
    What does almost every tech tool mentioned so far have in common?  They are all websites that require passwords.  Where are you putting all of those passwords?  Hopefully you are long past the days of keeping a written password book or putting them on a post-it note attached to your monitor.  But often times we end up using the same password for everything in order to make remembering them easier.  In the process we make ourselves (and our organizations) extremely vulnerable to hackers.  What’s the solution?  Use a tool like LastPass which is an online password vault which generates and remembers incredibly secure passwords.  The best part, you only have to remember one password moving forward (your LastPass password) which allows you to make it something creative, unique and secure.

That’s it …  our ten favorite tech tools for more productive fundraising.  Do you have a favorite tech tool that isn’t mentioned?  Join this discussion in our private Facebook group, the Fundraising Fish Fry.  We’d love to hear your tip!

For more productivity tips, check out all the productivity resources in our Free Resource Library.

PLEASE NOTE: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links, which means that we earn a small commission if you make a purchase (at no additional cost to you). We are VERY selective with this list.  To be included on this list it must be a tool, service or vendor that we have personally used and know that you too will have a positive experience if you implement it in your development shop.

Capture Everything

Capture Everything

Here are a few of the tools mentioned in this video:

Alex Toys – Rub a Dub Draw in the Tub Crayons

Evernote – Digital Filing Cabinet

Moleskin – Classic Large Blank Hardcover Notebook

Uniball Jetstream – Ballpoint Pens

Do you have a capture tool that isn’t mentioned?  Join this discussion in our private Facebook group, the Fundraising Fish Fry.  We’d love to hear your tip!

For more productivity tips, check out all the productivity resources in our Free Resource Library.

How to Find Time to Read as a Busy Fundraiser

How to Find Time to Read as a Busy Fundraiser

I’m often asked by nonprofit board members, “What’s the most important skill to look for in a fundraiser?”  My answer is always the same … a relentless passion for learning.  A successful fundraiser always needs to be seeking new ideas and improving their fundraising knowledge base.  One of the best ways to acquire this knowledge is through reading.  There are so many great books, magazines, and blogs dedicated to nonprofit fundraising.  But many fundraisers state that finding the time to actually read is quite difficult.

So, here are my six hacks for fitting more reading into your daily schedule

1) Keep a list of what you want to read

When you hear about a great book or article, make note of it.  I add books I hear about to my online wishlist (at either amazon.com or paperbackswap.com).  When it comes time to look for new reading material, I have a list and don’t have to waste time browsing.  I can use that time for actual reading.

2) Save posts & articles to read later

When I’m spending time on social media, I do my best to get in and get out.  I don’t read articles or follow link trails.  But fellow fundraisers post lots of great content that I do want to read at some point.  That’s where Pocket comes in.  Pocket is a service that lets me save articles for later (in my pocket).  Then when I have a few minutes (e.g. waiting for an appointment, standing in line, before a donor meeting, etc.), I can read these articles — on ANY of my devices at ANY time.  It’s like having your TO READ pile with you at all times, but without the clutter or the weight.

3) Stop reading if you aren’t getting value

If you start reading something and it’s not what you thought it would be, STOP.  There is no rule that says you have to finish what you start reading.  We aren’t in grade school anymore.  We choose what we read.  This is especially important with books.  Reading an entire book is a big commitment – make sure it’s worth your time.  I will admit that I only finish about half the books that I start reading.  Once I can tell that I’m not going to get enough value out of it to justify the time, I’m done.  It’s that simple.

4) Read during all the little moments of extra time

Surround yourself with things to read.  Fill your Pocket with articles.  Keep books and magazines that you want to read on your coffee table, desk, night stand.  Keep reading material in your briefcase and in your suitcase.  Make sure you are never in a situation where you have time to read, but nothing to read.

Then instead of hopping on Facebook on your phone when you have a spare minute or two, pull up something to read.  Even if you only read a page, you are making progress and being inspired.  Don’t let these little moments go to waste, they add up.

5) Schedule a lunch with yourself

When I have something that I really want to read, like a book written by my favorite speaker at a conference or the latest edition of AFP’s Advancing Philanthropy, I schedule lunch with it.  I literally go to my calendar, find an open lunch slot, and plug in “Meeting | Advancing Philanthropy.”  It’s a lunch date, with reading material.  The key is that it is blocked from any other commitments (and it looks like a real meeting to the folks that help manage my calendar).  It’s a great way to make progress on beefier items which really require time to digest (puns intended).

6) Try audiobooks or podcasts (especially in the car) 

Driving is one of the least productive uses of time, but you can change this.  Listening to audiobooks or podcasts is a great option.  Almost any book is available in audiobook format these days and there are countless podcast options — even a few about fundraising.  You can also turn up the speed on audiobook or podcast apps to have them play at 1.5x or 2x speed.  This can allow you to finish things in half the time, and it is often times still very easy to understand.

So there you have it, six tips to help you read more and grow your fundraising knowledge base.  What are your favorite reading hacks?  Need something to read?  Check out the recommended reading section of our Free Resource Library.

Have another tip to share or a favorite resource?  Join the discussion in our private Facebook group, the Fundraising Fish Fry.  We’d love to hear from you!

Block Time for Donor Visits (and for Scheduling Them)

Block Time for Donor Visits (and for Scheduling Them)

Here’s a FREE resource we put together which calculates how much time to set aside for donor visits (and for scheduling them) based on your fundraising goals, it’s our Visit Time Blocking Formulas.

Have you had recent success with donor visits?  Join the discussion in our private Facebook group, the Fundraising Fish Fry.  We’d love to hear from you!

Want to learn more?  Check out the donor visit section of our Free Resource Library.  Or join us for our upcoming webinar, How to Get Donor Visits and Knock Them Out of the Park.

Productive Fundraising: It’s Both WHAT You Do and HOW You Do It

Productive Fundraising: It’s Both WHAT You Do and HOW You Do It

Productivity is a two part process.  It requires the perfect balance of efficiency and effectiveness.  It’s not only the outcomes that matter, but also the process for reaching those outcomes.  It’s both WHAT you do, and HOW you do it.

The WHAT

As a professional fundraiser, there is a constant temptation, and sometimes expectation, to try to raise funds every way possible.  The suggestions come from everywhere:  articles, blogs, conferences, etc.  My favorite is the “helpful” (and insistent) board member …  “I’m involved with XYZ organization and they just held this great event that raised a lot of money, we’re going to do that too!”  Don’t get me started on non-strategic special events!  Regular readers of this blog know that I recommend holding no more than two big special events per year.  The flip side of this board member is the one that says “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” at every single meeting.  One wants to do the wrong thing and one doesn’t want to try anything new at all.

So what’s the problem with these two mindsets?  Whether you try every tactic possible, or try nothing new at all, you will get the same result … mediocrity.  Things will be fine, but you’ll never really fulfill your mission and change the world.  You’ll be stuck in slow growth mode or maybe even stagnancy.

So how do you do better than mediocre?  The key is to figure out what will work best for your organization, and to do it well … really well.   Buy how? In my opinion, the number one skill for today’s fundraiser is the desire to always be learning.  Read every day … make it a priority.  Keep up with the latest trends.  Attend industry leading conferences.  Expose yourself to other sectors and see what’s working there.  Then bring those ideas back to your office and apply them to your work … INNOVATE.

But don’t just blindly innovate, you have to test what you put into place.  Is it really working, or is does it just make your organization look good?  Charities don’t fulfill their missions by looking good … they do it by raising vital funds and delivering programmatic results.  So, make a commitment to innovation.  Try one or two new strategies at a time.  Keep the ones that work and kill the ones that don’t.  After a few development cycles, you’ll find a few strategies that really elevate your fundraising and charity to the next level.  And you’ll get really good at saying “NO” to the things that you know will take you back  down to the land of mediocrity.

The HOW

Something must also be said for HOW you work.  Are you an efficient worker?  If meeting your goals requires that you put in 60 hour weeks every single week, there’s a problem.  It could be unrealistic expectations or it could be bad work habits.  It’s most likely a combination of both.  By being in touch with your personal productivity habits and constantly seeking ways to improve them, you can take back your life and still be an effective fundraiser.

Developing a personal productivity system that you can trust is a key to success (and sanity).  Managing time, email and social media use are also key skills.  You also need to know how to limit and maximize meetings, travel smart and properly integrate your work and home lives.  And finally, you have to do it all with a great attitude by managing your mood and energy level.

And let’s not forget … you have to actually leave the office to meet with donors, network and build the pipeline.

This has been my framework for success in the nonprofit sector: constant innovation (and testing) with a major focus (okay, addiction) on working efficiently.

How do you balance the WHAT and the HOW?  Join the discussion in our private Facebook group, the Fundraising Fish Fry.  We’d love to hear from you!

Want to learn more?  Check out the our Free Resource Library.  Or attend our next productivity webinar, “How to Fix Your Productivity to Amp Up Your Results.”

Productive Fundraising In Action: Michael J. Rosen

For this month’s edition of Productive Fundraising in action, I interviewed my fellow Pennsylvanian and fundraising guru Michael J. Rosen, President of ML Innovations, Inc. Let’s dig in …

What personal productivity technique has had the most impact on your career?

In any given moment, I try to do the most important thing. Depending on the moment, that might mean writing a planned-giving marketing plan, preparing for a training, or just relaxing. Related to this, I also try to take care of the tasks I hate the most first (assuming they’re important) in order to get them out of the way so they’re not hanging over my head.

Why did you choose this specific technique over any others that you may use?

I’m a natural born procrastinator. I have to always fight against that tendency. Staying focused on doing the most important thing at any moment helps me stay on course.

Do you have a favorite tool that helps you stay productive?

If I had to choose just one productivity tool, I’d have to say it’s my laptop. I’m definitely not a technology expert, but I know enough about my laptop (and smartphone) to be very useful.

Do you have a favorite productivity book, system or expert that you look to for guidance?

No. I’ve focused my energies on growing as a fundraiser and a marketer. I haven’t focused too much on finely honing my personal productivity skills. At this point in my career, it’s not such a big problem. However, early on, I certainly could have benefited from knowing more about productivity. It would have saved me from learning the hard way.

Chad’s Two Cents

Michael has some great tips on beating procrastination. The MIT (Most Important Task) theory is preached throughout productivity circles. I don’t preach it because I don’t do it (and I only preach what I practice). I personally prefer a warm up with some administrative tasks before I get to my key items — but that’s just me. Personal productivity is just that … personal.

Michael’s last point is key. While he doesn’t give us productivity book, system or expert, what he says is very telling: “I’ve focused my energies on growing as a fundraiser.” There’s definitely such a thing as focusing too much on productivity (and yours truly may be guilty of this). There’s a balance … you need to focus on your craft (fundraising) AND refining that craft (productivity).

Michael J. Rosen is President of ML Innovations, Inc. ML Innovations provides a broad-range of ethics, fundraising, and marketing consulting services and training programs for nonprofit organizations throughout the USA. Fundraising specialties include annual giving, planned giving, telephone fundraising, and donor retention.  You can learn more about Michael (and pick up some great fundraising tips) via his blog, Michael Rosen Says.

What are your two cents? Join the discussion in our private Facebook group, the Fundraising Fish Fry.  We’d love to hear your thoughts!

For more productivity tips, check out our Free Resource Library, or join us for our next productivity webinar, “How to Fix Your Productivity to Amp Up Your Results.”

Productive Fundraising In Action: Alice Ferris, CFRE, ACFRE

For this edition of Productive Fundraising IN ACTION, we get to peek into the inner workings of fundraising superstar Alice Ferris, CFRE, ACFRE. Alice is a Partner with GoalBusters Consulting out of Flagstaff, AZ. Let’s see how Alice stays productive …

What personal productivity technique has had the most impact on your career?

Setting a morning ritual: I start the day with a short meditation session, a short yoga routine, then spend no more than 30 minutes updating social media, and breakfast (or at least coffee). I try to stick to this even when on the road (200+ days a year!), which is sometimes unsuccessful, but I always do the meditation, at minimum.

Why did you choose this specific technique over any others that you may use?

We live in a non-stop, constant input world, and I need to give myself a little space to clear my mind and make room for new ideas and creativity. Plus, it helps me stay a little bit more physically balanced.

Do you have a favorite tool that helps you stay productive?

I’m constantly trying out new tools, so this is my answer of the moment! I’m using SaneBox and ActiveInbox to manage my constant deluge of emails, which helps me get to Inbox Zero, usually daily. I also use Trello to manage my to do list, augmented by Google Reminders. My other favorites are ScheduleOnce, which allows people to schedule themselves for conference calls on my calendar, and FancyHands, a virtual assistant that takes care of random stuff that I don’t have time for or just don’t want to do myself. Plus, I always have a notepad from some random hotel on my desk for the miscellaneous thoughts.

Do you have a favorite productivity book, system or expert that you look to for guidance?

Again, I don’t have just one. My Trello boards are based on a model from Asian Efficiency (how’s that for conforming to a stereotype?). I also follow, to some degree, Marie Kondo’s KonMari system for tidying up in both my physical environment and my calendar.

Chad’s Two Cents

Wow, talk about a productivity geek’s dream interview. Alice mentions so many great tools … and some that I haven’t even tried (yet)!

Alice’s morning ritual is key. You need to make sure there is time for YOU in each and every day. By taking a few minutes in the morning to center yourself and prepare for what lies ahead, you will be far less stressed and better able to tackle the day’s challenges. I too have a morning routine and while mine centers more on learning, caffeinating and hydrating, it has the same effect. Both Alice and I emotionally centered and ready for the day by the time we finish our ritual/routine.

Alice and I use a very different set of productivity tools, but are both highly organized type A folks that balance a lot of different commitments. This further proves that it’s not the tool that matters, it’s the process and thought behind it. Find a personal productivity system that works for you, then find the tools that support it (not the other way around).

Finally, thanks to Alice for finally getting me to pull Marie Kondo’s “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying: A Simple, Effective Way to Banish Clutter Forever” off my shelf and give it a read. I’m about a third of the way through and I can already tell it’s worth the time.

Alice is a Partner with GoalBusters Consulting. GoalBusters Consulting supports small to medium-sized nonprofit organizations throughout North America with strategic planning, development assessments, training and outsourced development services.

What are your two cents? Join the discussion in our private Facebook group, the Fundraising Fish Fry.  We’d love to hear your thoughts!

For more productivity tips, check out our Free Resource Library, or join us for our next productivity webinar, “How to Fix Your Productivity to Amp Up Your Results.”

Productive Fundraising In Action: Beth Brodovsky

brodovsky

For this edition of Productive Fundraising In Action I interviewed Beth Brodovsky, President of Iris Creative Group. I’ve seen Beth present at multiple fundraising workshops and conferences. She’s always on her game. So, lets dig in and see what she does on a daily basis to make that happen …

What one personal productivity technique has had the most impact on your career?

Taking action right away.

Why did you choose this specific technique over any others that you may use?

Delaying decisions has caused me many more problems than making the wrong decision.

Do you have a favorite productivity book, system or expert that you look to for guidance?

Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown

Summary (Chad’s Two Cents)

Beth’s answers were short and to the point, but boy did she strike a chord with me. Taking decisive action is something that I occasionally struggle with and something that nonprofits in general are horrible at doing. I wrote a blog post on this a few weeks back … Fundraisers Need to Stop Meeting & Start Deciding. Sometimes we just need to take the plunge. The repercussions are often no where near as bad as we think they are.

Beth’s book recommendation is a great one. I have not read it cover to cover (it’s somewhere on my kindle wishlist), but I’ve heard Greg McKeown interviewed several times by other productivity gurus. He preaches “essentialism” which is somewhat like minimalism, but more about commitments and energy and less about stuff. One of the key premises is that you can do more by doing less. The key is maximizing your potential on things that matter to you and your dreams, not on things that matter only to other people.

Beth Brodovsky serves as President of Iris Creative. Iris Creative Group helps organizations get focused in order to drive participation. They specialize in discovering the perfect audience for their clients and developing communications that inspire them to action.

What are your two cents? Join the discussion in our private Facebook group, the Fundraising Fish Fry.  We’d love to hear your thoughts!

For more productivity tips, check out our Free Resource Library, or join us for our next productivity webinar, “How to Fix Your Productivity to Amp Up Your Results.”

7 Productivity Tips That Will Transform Your Fundraising

7 Productivity Tips That Will Transform Your Fundraising

This post originally appeared on the Bloomerang blog.

As a self-proclaimed “productivity geek, I’m often asked by clients or presentation attendees for “the one productivity hack that they can implement to transform their fundraising.”  Well, it’s hard to pick just one, but here are seven that each would have a huge impact.  If you implement all of them you will definitely reach a whole new level of success, but even putting just one or two into play will have a transformative effect on your fundraising results (and sanity).

1) Block Time for Donor Visits

When a fundraising program is floundering the typical cause is that they are not spending enough time with their donors.  I’ve found that the problem typically doesn’t center around not knowing how to request a donor visit, but rather not setting aside the time to actually go on them.  Let’s face it, donor visits are time-consuming and unless you are proactive about designating time solely for them, your calendar will fill up with “urgent” but less important tasks.

So how do I personally address this?  I block time on my calendar, every week, for donor visits.  You should do the same, but first you need to do some math to see how much time you need.

Personally, my current goal is to do 100 donor visits per year.  If I do visits 40 weeks out of the year (factoring in vacation time, holiday weeks, the weeks before special events, etc.), that works out to 2.5 visits per week.  Factoring in travel time, I allow 2 hours per donor visit so I am never rushed.  That means I need 5 hours per week reserved on my calendar for donor visits.  I have learned when I am the least effective in the office and I use that time for my visits.  For me this is Wednesday afternoon.  I literally have that day blocked on my calendar for donor visits — no one is allowed to schedule anything else during that time.  If there’s something I have to go do during that time then I shift my calendar and reschedule that donor visit time for another time period that same week.

Read More: How to Make Sure Donor Visits Actually Happen

2) Block Time for Requesting Donor Visits

But blocking time for donor visits isn’t enough.  You also need to block the time to request these donor visits. I’ve found that every donor visit will also require about 30 minutes of time to request and coordinate it (factoring in my visit request success rate of 50%).  So if I want to do 2.5 donor visits per week, I also need to block 75 minutes on my schedule to request these visits, every week.  I prefer to break this up (it helps with the back and forth emails), so I dedicate 15 minutes every morning (from 6:45 to 7am specifically) for donor visit requests.  I typically send out three new requests every day and follow-up on the ones that were sent previously.

Read More: How to Make Sure Donor Visits Actually Happen

3) Only Reply to Non-Urgent Email Once Per Day

One of the best ways to spend less of your day on email is to only reply to non-urgent email once a day.  Spending a few minutes replying to email a couple of times each day doesn’t sound terribly inefficient, but it creates a problem:  the email boomerang effect.  Each one of those emails you send will most likely produce a reply.  The more you send, the more you get back.  Often times, you can have 5+ emails back and forth with the same person on the same topic in one day.  By only responding once a day, you avoid this scenario.

I recommend starting out by scheduling 60 minutes on your calendar every day to reply to email.  Eventually you should be able to get this down to 30 minutes.  When should you reply to email?  That’s easy … use your low energy time of day.

Read More: How to Conquer Your Email | Schedule Your Tasks Based on Your Energy Level

4) Turn Off All Notifications

I don’t think anything has been more disruptive to personal productivity in the past decade than the explosion of device notifications.  Every device that we use now has the built-in capability to distract us and command our attention whenever it wants.  And the worst part is that the default setting for these notifications is ON.  You need to change this ASAP and change your personal default setting to OFF.

The only thing that should be allowed to distract you and bring you out of your work flow should be things that are truly urgent and must be addressed immediately.  My guess is that 95% of the notifications that you receive during your day do not meet this criteria.  Almost anything can wait an hour.  So take a few minutes to turn off your phone notifications, email notifications and social media notifications on all of your devices and computers.  Basically anything that dings, flashes or warbles should be turned off so it doesn’t break your concentration while you’re doing important work.

5) Never Have the Same Meeting Twice

Spending your time in internal meetings is not the best use of time for a fundraiser.  We need to be out of the office interacting with our donors as much as possible.  But there are those unavoidable meetings that we simply have to attend or just can’t seem to find a way to avoid.

If you get stuck in a meeting, make sure something comes out of it. The easiest way to do this is to be the action points guy or girl. As the meeting is wrapping up, ask “Can we take a second to summarize what we’ve agreed to and who will do what by when?  This simple question ensures that someone takes accountability for results and that the attendees didn’t all just waste 45 minutes of their day.  And even more importantly, it prevents you from having the same exact meeting next month.

Read More: How to Avoid Meetings and Maximize Those You Can’t

6) Put Your Thank Notes on Autopilot

We all know we should send hand-written thank you notes — especially after meeting with a donor or prospect for the first time.   But its easy to forget to do so or for the task to keep getting shoved down your to do list.

So, what’s the solution?  Put your thank you notes on autopilot.   Keep a set of thank you notes and pre-stamped envelopes with you at all times (in your briefcase, car, purse, etc.).  Immediately after a meeting, do not create an electronic reminder to send a follow up note.  These reminders inevitably seem to get postponed so many times that they become late and ultimately obsolete. Instead, at the very moment you think of it, reach in your bag, grab a ready-to-mail card and complete it. The details of your message will be fresh in your mind and it will be effortless.  If you struggle with what to write, here’s my guide to writing three sentence, three minute thank you notes.

One additional tactic that I often use is to pre-address the thank you note while I’m waiting to go into a meeting and lay it on the passenger seat of my car.  Then it’s the first thing I see upon returning to my car after the meeting and it’s easy to quickly rattle it off.  When I get back to my office or home it is immediately dropped in the outgoing mail.

Read More: How to Write 3 Minute Thank You Notes | The Secret to Sending Prompt Thank You Notes

7) Read Every Day

While most fundraisers don’t want to hear it, nothing will transform your fund development efforts more than fresh, new, innovative ideas.  How you get those?  There is not better or more inexpensive way than by reading.  Read EVERY day.

My key tip here is to always have reading material with you.  Read during all those little wasted moments during the day.  By this I mean times like waiting in the lobby to go into an appointment, during your commute or while waiting for a meeting to start.

I always have reading material with me.  My reading stack is kept in my briefcase (not on my desk).  And I use a free service called Pocket which lets me save articles (usually blog posts) online that I’d like to read later.  Don’t waste this time … use it to innovate … READ!

There you have it … my top 7 personal productivity tips for fundraisers.

What are your top productivity tips? Join the discussion in our private Facebook group, the Fundraising Fish Fry.  We’d love to hear your thoughts!

For more productivity tips, check out our Free Resource Library, or join us for our next productivity webinar, “How to Fix Your Productivity to Amp Up Your Results.”

Productive Fundraising In Action: Maida Connor, CFRE

connor

For this week’s Productive Fundraising In Action feature, I discussed personal productivity with my long time colleague in fundraising, Maida Connor, CFRE, Executive Director of Advancement for York Catholic High School

What personal productivity technique has had the most impact on your career?

I keep daily project lists, crossing off and transferring items not tackled to the next day’s list to keep projects on track and deadlines met. It causes me to reflect and sometimes redesign/redirect projects for better outcomes. It is also incredibly helpful as I oversee a vast project area which encompasses marketing, communications, admissions, constituent relations, major gifts, annual fund, fundraising, special events, and campaign work. This technique better prepares me for weekly meetings with my team to prioritize projects, forecast simultaneous efforts (mailings, special events, etc.) to ensure our collective efforts are well thought out, well planned and very well executed. This also makes it much easier to prepare reports for the school board and other leadership volunteer boards.

Why did you choose this specific technique over any others that you may use?

While it may be old fashioned, writing out my project lists reminds me to prioritize, delegate, and tackle activities efficiently. It causes me to consider a project’s elements, mission, deadlines, and anticipated (hoped for) outcomes, and also regularly forces me to prioritize and re-prioritize. By giving projects careful thought during a daily task list review, I’m less likely to miss deadlines and often am able to improve project components.

Do you have a favorite tool that helps you stay productive?

I regularly review fundraising/development newsletters, blogs and publications online as well as local (Central Pennsylvania) news feeds to keep current on ideas, success stories, and news about area companies.

Do you have a favorite productivity book, system or expert that you look to for guidance?

I highly recommend any books, conferences, webinars or newsletters by Tom Ahern and Simone Joyaux. They are often my ‘go to’ source when I’m constructing a fundraising/donor cultivation program or battling writers block. They always have sound advice, great examples of winning materials, and new ways of building great donor relationships to increase dollars.

Chad’s Two Cents

Maida is a to do list master, of the written variety. I certainly agree that keeping current lists of all active tasks and projects is key. It’s the critical component to getting tasks out of your head and into your system, so you can actually relax. However, it’s often the process of routinely reviewing a to do list, not the list itself, where the magic happens. Maida conducts a “daily task list review.” This allows here to “prioritize, delegate, and tackle activities efficiently.” She’s not just on autopilot, going down through her list in the order it’s written. She is taking time on a daily basis to review priorities and ask questions like:

  • “Does this task still need to happen?”
  • “If so, does it need to happen today?”
  • “Am I the only person that can do it or can someone else on my team handle it?”

It’s the daily pondering of questions like these that take you from an efficient worker to a productivity superstar.

Maida Connor, CFRE serves as Executive Director of Advancement for York Catholic High School (YCHS) in York, PA. YCHS is a private co-ed school for grades 7-12 which is built upon the pillars of faith, mind, heart, and family. It has proudly served families throughout York County, PA and northern MD for nearly 90 years offering exemplary academics, competitive athletic programs, strong cultural and spiritual programs in a caring community of talented teachers, staff, and coaches. The school’s graduates number over 9,000 worldwide and emerge to become compassionate, effective leaders and doers locally and globally.

What are your two cents? Join the discussion in our private Facebook group, the Fundraising Fish Fry.  We’d love to hear your thoughts!

For more productivity tips, check out our Free Resource Library, or join us for our next productivity webinar, “How to Fix Your Productivity to Amp Up Your Results.”