I’m often asked by nonprofit board members, “What’s the most important skill to look for in potential fundraising staff?” 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 six tips 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 a note of it. I add books I hear about to my online wish lists (either on Amazon or Blinkist). 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. [If you’re starting from scratch, here are my favorites: @fundraiserchad’s top book recommendations]
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 (well … at least I try not to do so … darn memes). But our 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 app). Then when I have a few minutes (e.g. sitting in waiting room before an appointment, standing in line to board a plane, 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 those 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 have access to my calendar). It’s a great way to make progress on beefier items which really require time to digest (puns intended).
6) Try audiobooks, podcasts or book summaries (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. And I can’t forget my latest obsession, Blinkist, which features 15 minute summaries of tons of great nonfiction leadership and business books.