My Tips on Planning and Prioritizing: Team of One Fundraising

Stock Illustration of a Busy White Person Holding And Talking On Three Corded Telephones

This post is a complement to a podcast episode of Social Entrepreneur with Nathan A. Webster, of which I am a monthly contributor. To listen to the episode about this topic, click here.

Now that you have your plan together… what do you do if you have no other development staff members to help you execute? Not to worry – here are some tips as to how to go about prioritizing your time. Remember: even Beyonce has only 24 hours in a day!

First: prioritize. Get very clear with your executive director what is absolutely necessary to accomplish, and then pick some extra things to do to complement the need-to-do’s.

  • Maybe there’s a big grant that your organization gets every year – it’s important to get the application and reporting deadlines on the calendar so that you don’t miss them. And build the relationship with the program officer!
  • Your next item to execute should be a year end appeal. This can be an easy way to communicate out to a big group of donors and bring in money without too much one-on-one contact. It’s an efficient way to fundraise if you don’t have much time.
  • Next would be relationship building, especially with major donors. They have the capacity to give large gifts that could make a big difference to your bottom line.
  • Lastly, if you have time, you can throw in a fundraising event. Events are nice-to-have’s, but take a lot of time and aren’t guaranteed to raise a lot of money.

Next: remember that while you’re a team of one, you’re not REALLY a team of one! You have other resources at your fingertips.

  • Are there other staff (outside of development)? They can help with demonstrating impact, like hosting a donor at an event with your clients.
  • Is there a board? They can help with sharing stories about the organization.
  • Is there a development committee? They can help with getting to know donors. You can assign them a portfolio of donors to work with.
    • If not, can you work to form one? Can you identify a chair?
  • Are there other volunteers? They can help with writing thank you notes or doing thank you calls.
  • Can you mobilize your donors? They can help with acquiring new donors, by asking their friends to give on your behalf.

All of these people can help tell your story. They all have their unique perspectives on what the organization is doing. They can forward your e-newsletters, share your social media posts, attend your events, and be advocates for you in the community – which is the majority of what you should be spending your time on as a fundraising effort.

As you’re busy running around mobilizing all of these people – remember to say thank you. Not just to them, but also to yourself. Hold yourself lightly, and don’t put too much pressure on yourself. Be thoughtful about your work, take breaks when you need to, and do your best. The organization’s story will hold up no matter what!

You can do it! And thank you!


My Tips on Planning and Prioritizing: Managing Fundraising Teams

motivating team

This post is a complement to a podcast episode of Social Entrepreneur with Nathan A. Webster, of which I am a monthly contributor. To listen to the episode about this topic, click here.

When you hear the phrase fundraising planning – what do you think? Do you think about Excel spreadsheets that sit on the shelf, or documents with track changes with dates that span over eight months? Well, it doesn’t have to be that way. A plan can serve as a roadmap for the direction you want to go, and can be something you refer to when your executive director asks you to do something a little out there (it can help you say no!). At the end of the day, it can – and should – be something that helps you stay sane.

As you start to put together your plan – use last year to benchmark, but don’t set your sights too low & get stuck on what’s happened in the past. Be reasonable but also imaginative. And make sure you have concrete goals. For each group you are looking to raise money from (i.e. individuals, grants, events), think about what you want to accomplish. Are you trying to raise more money? Increase your number of donors? Those goals aren’t necessarily the same, so get clear on what you want to do from the beginning.

So what if you’ve put together your plan and now you have to manage your staff fundraising team? It’s not an easy feat – getting everyone on your team on the same page. There are endless ways to fundraise, and there are always more people to ask for money, so as a team manager it’s your job to decide how to prioritize the work to be done. It’s also super important to balance what has to be done with what could be done – i.e. what is good for long term fundraising.

A couple of tips to do this:

  • Team retreats: In addition to your staff fundraising team, it’s good to include others as well, like your executive director, marketing team, or other volunteers working with you. Make sure to use time effectively – balance between strategic thinking and implementation. Make sure to do follow up! There’s nothing more frustrating than spending hours at a retreat and then hearing nothing afterwards.
  • Regular check ins: Depending on your team, this could be with the whole team or one-on-one. It’s important to keep your staff working on what’s important, but still have the bigger picture in mind.

It’s all about open communication! But: what if you’re a team of one? Stay tuned for tips next time!


A Reminder to Never Stop Learning


You know I always like to stay up to date with the latest and greatest goings on in the nonprofit sector… and that includes listening to podcasts related to the sector. One of these days I’ll post a roundup of all of my favorites (including the one I was recently a guest on!), but recently something special happened for one of them.

Tony Martignetti Nonprofit Radio just celebrated its 350th episode! Tony has put out an hour-long podcast every Friday for the past seven years. Amazing! If you’ve never listened before, I encourage you to tune in (Fridays at 10:00am PST) or subscribe and get the episodes straight to your phone. He always has really interesting guests, along with the regulars that he consults with, and talks through important issues for the sector.

I couldn’t let this momentous occasion go by without a congratulatory tweet, so I did one, making sure to include the episode’s special hashtag, #NonprofitRadio350. That tweet entered me to win one of their excellent prizes, and guess what?

I won the grand prize!

To my delight, because of the generosity of one of the podcast’s sponsors Pursuant, I won entrance into Gail Perry’s fundraising webinar series Create an Epic Year-End Fundraising Campaign, including seven sessions with some of the world’s top fundraising experts. While I have (a few!) years of fundraising under my belt, I will never stop learning more about fundraising best practices and how I might be able to jazz up my portfolio, so I’m just thrilled for this opportunity.

I want to say thank you to Pursuant and congratulations to Tony on such an amazing milestone! And encourage you all to subscribe to his podcast – it’s one of my favorites!

I’ll just be over here learning… 🙂


Celebrating Six Years of Blogging & the Next Chapter for Nonprofit Chapin


I’ve been waiting to write this blog post for months. I’ve been waiting to make these career decisions for even longer. And today, on the sixth anniversary of this blog, I am ready to share what I’ve been thinking about for so long – my plans for the future.

Over my eleven years of working in fundraising and marketing for nonprofits I have learned so much. I’ve learned about the joys and the challenges of working in nonprofits, that there is always work to be done, and that at the end of the day, the work changes lives.

I’ve also learned to key in on the elements of work that I enjoy and that I’m really good at.

  • I have eleven years of experience of working in various roles in development teams, and have a real knack for thinking about efficient operations. I know how to effectively manage direct mail appeals, put together major gifts programs, write and report on grants, put on a gala, or maintain a donor database.
  • I love thinking about how teams work and supervising staff. Empowering nonprofit staff to do their best work – while taking care of themselves and their needs – is a real passion of mine.
  • I love working in periods of change and transition – I like thinking on my feet and introducing new solutions to problems. And I have a knack for being a calming force during a time of chaos.
  • I’d like to work with a greater variety of nonprofits. Ever since I got my Masters in Nonprofit Administration, I’ve been craving the ability to use the breadth of knowledge I received with a wide range of organizations.
  • I want more flexibility with my time. I’ve realized that when I work constantly, I get in a zone and more quickly burn out, not doing my best work. I want a better balance so that I can do better work.

I’ve taken a lot of time to think about all of this, and had a bunch of informational interviews with people who have worked in development for a long time, and have landed on my next career move:

I’m looking to move into interim development director work.

I’ll help manage your development team, ensure your daily operations are taken care of and that money is raised, and even evaluate your current development program and make some recommendations. I’ll help during your search, help make a smooth transition to your permanent development director and then leave you to succeed.

With the constant state of turnover that many nonprofits find themselves in with this key position, I hope to fill a real need. Just because you’re between development directors doesn’t mean you have to put additional pressure on your current team or redirect someone else’s time. I can come in and help make sure everything runs smoothly.

My last full time day with my current employer is April 7. After some time off, I’ll be looking for jobs like this. If you hear of anyone who might need something like this, please think of me! I’ll be relying on my community of support – and that certainly includes you – to get me plugged in where I need to me. Many thanks in advance!!


Make 2017 the Year of Self Care


We’re one month into the new year – have your resolutions gone to the wayside? Are you back in the rut of crazy, stressful days working away, with no time to think or take a breath?

I thought that might be the case!

And so, I wanted to remind you all of this brilliant piece in the Chronicle of Philanthropy: 10 Ways to Work Smarter in 2017 by Rebecca Koenig. Note the apropos use of the word smarter as opposed to harder. This piece has strategy and self-care all over it: two of my favorite words.

You should take the time to read about all ten ways, but here are some of my favorites and why:

  • Reserve time to work without meetings. I use time blocking in my calendar and it is the only way I stay organized and productive! I put most of the projects I’m working on as “Free” time in Outlook, but if there’s something you need to work on with no interruptions, you can always say you’re busy. A meeting with yourself is just as important (if not more) than a meeting with others.
  • Stop overusing social media at work. Can I shout this one from the rooftops? I’m definitely one to pop on all my social media channels during my lunch break, but if it’s not break time, it’s not Snapchat time. It’s easy to spend hours on Facebook, so don’t tempt yourself and don’t do it!
  • Build strong relationships outside of your office. Spending time with other people who work in the nonprofit world but not at your organization can be incredibly rejuvenating. It can make you feel like you’re not alone in your struggles, or make you realize how wrong something is. Either way, it’s a success. And it is very validating!
  • Accept imperfection. Made a mistake? Don’t beat yourself up about it. The more you stress over it, the more it creeps into the quality of your work. Mistakes are what make the successes even that much sweeter.

Brava, Rebecca Koenig. And here’s to a 2017 full of self-love!


Be Mindful of Your Vibes


In the nonprofit sector, we’re all working like crazy. Sometimes I get to the end of the day and think, what did I accomplish today?? Of course, the actual answer to that is a bunch of stuff, but sometimes the time just flies by. And before you know it, it’s time to go.

We’re all working at 110%. Which is why it’s super important to be mindful of how we talk about that fact. It can be easy to default to complaints:

“I worked 12 hours yesterday, and 11 the day before. This is too much! I just have so much work to do. I’m exhausted and by the time I get home, I don’t want to spend time with my family, I just want to go to sleep. Also, I just gave my first born baby to my boss!”

OK, that last complaint went too far, but you get the picture. And I’m not downplaying the work that anyone is putting in. But I am saying that the way we frame the hard work we are doing makes a difference. It’s very likely that someone heard that venting session and thought to themselves,

“Well gosh. I only worked nine hours yesterday and a measly eight hours the day before! I feel bad, my colleague is working her butt off and I’m sitting around eating bonbons. I’d better work longer hours and put in more time!”

Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. Your colleague working longer days does not mean that your day will be any shorter. In fact, it will probably just make the mood more miserable, since everybody will be stressed out. Instead, I’d recommend framing your feelings this way:

“Because of the board meeting yesterday, I worked a pretty long day. Sometimes things like that happen. I’m planning to leave early tomorrow to make up that time.”

Boom. No additional explaining, no apologizing for leaving early. Of course, you might want to frame this as a question if you’re talking to your boss. But if it’s a colleague, just leave it at that. It’s no one else’s business if you’re working more than eight hours a day. I’d argue that it’s usually something within your control. So, keep it to yourself. And be mindful of your vibes. They really make a difference.


Redefining Purpose-Oriented in the Nonprofit Sector


I came across this fascinating post in The Chronicle of Philanthropy: Why Nonprofits Need to Give Workers a Sense of Purpose and thought, as many others likely did, what the heck? What’s more full of purpose than showing up to work and having every task, even the most menial, work toward a larger goal of helping others?

I read the piece and realized: this is a different kind of purpose. And I’m totally for it.

The author defines a purpose-oriented worker as the following:

“This group defines work as being about relationships, having a meaningful impact, and personal growth. They see work as a means to serve others and grow themselves. They need to get paid and be acknowledged, but that’s not what gets them out of bed each morning.”

Pay close attention to the inclusion of self-growth in this definition: that’s what is often missing in others, and that is what is a key takeaway here.

The author writes that 45% of all nonprofit workers land in this category, and they are exceptional. We should do all we can to encourage this attitude: one of personal growth and employee fulfillment. This is the way to attract and retain good employees, not just by giving raises across the board (although that helps too!). Investing in our people is the most important thing we can do as nonprofit leaders to ensure the success of the nonprofits of the future.

I encourage you to take a look at the piece – it’s a great read and a good reminder that no matter what sector we work in, taking care of ourselves is the most important thing.


Five Years Old Today!


Five years of blogging as Nonprofit Chapin! You know what that means – a complete blog overhaul. New layout, new photos (courtesy of the supremely talented Krishna Patel), new About Me page, even some new stuff on my Twitter page. It’s a new year and time for a refresh. Let me know what you think!

Professionally, I have grown a tremendous amount this year. I moved from a Donor Relations Manager role, where I was focusing mostly on direct mail, grants, and donor database management, to an Associate Director of Development role, where I am in charge of a fundraising team while there is no Director of Development. I am jumping head first into some meaty management issues and getting a ton of great experience thinking about how to be strategic with my energy and efforts. With managing a department comes a variety of different types of tasks, and it can be tough to manage my time without working 12 hours a day. But I’m learning it, and gaining a lot of wonderful experience.

If you (or someone you know) has found yourself at a loss of how to move forward with your development team, I would love to help. I have gained so much great experience that I’d enjoy working with other nonprofits to reimagine how their team might work best. Feel free to contact me on my About Me page or by leaving a comment here, and we can talk about working together. I’d love to be of help, wherever you are!

Here’s to another five years!


Spreading My Leadership Wings


Here I am again, another two months after my last post. And while it really hasn’t been that long, there have been some changes at my new job that are allowing the space for me to really, I mean really, spread my leadership wings.

One thing’s for sure – I’ve spent the last few months steeping myself in nonprofit staffing issues. Whether it’s hiring new staff, appreciating more seasoned ones, or thinking about division of duties and workloads, the human resource discussion in nonprofits is as important as ever. Now more than ever, as I manage a team of development staff, I think about the ways we can make sure our nonprofit employees are satisfied in their careers and lives. What’s my role in making sure this happens? At the moment, it’s with my own team and at my own nonprofit. What is my obligation to make change on a deeper level? I consider these questions as I move through my changing role.

I hope you also think about this as you do your work. How are you modeling behavior that your nonprofit peers can appreciate and emulate? Do you have clear goals and expectations in your role, and are you being fully appreciated for them? For that matter, are you being outwardly appreciative of your colleagues? We should all shower each other with a little more love! No matter where you are on the totem pole, you can make a difference with your actions.

Thanks again for your patience. I assure you, something big will come out of these changes. And I’ll try to be better about bringing you along with me. Because I’m learning so much, and what’s the point of that if I’m not sharing my learnings with you?

Happy working, my nonprofit friends!


A Brand New Role in a Brand New City


It’s been some months since I’ve blogged – I’m sorry about that! But I promise there’s a good reason: I’ve been busy learning and growing in a brand new role in a brand new city. I accepted a new position: Associate Director of Development at a theater nonprofit. I started there on August 19 and have been getting to know the ropes and my role in the development team.

I was attracted to this position because I was ready and craving the next step in my career. Over the past few years, I have gained multiple direct reports and realized that my favorite time at work was working with these folks. I really enjoy thinking about how development teams work and I was looking for a new step that would allow me to contribute to that most thoughtfully.

And that’s where my current job comes in. This brand new position was created to inject capacity into a department where everyone is working at 150% and no one is able to step back and plan (sound familiar?). I am able to serve as the liaison between the development director and the rest of the development staff, manage daily operations, and assist the development director with department strategy. I was excited that this nonprofit identified the need for this kind of role and happy I could fit in to help.

I am learning a tremendous amount at my new job, and the possibilities are endless about what I could write about here. In addition to the development operations, I get to focus on developing the people in our department, which I love – a nonprofit is only as good as the amount of happy people working for it.

So thanks for being patient with me, and I hope you’ll read the coming posts as I navigate through my new role. It’s not always going to be pretty, but it’s always going to be honest. I appreciate you understanding that.