Many of my clients are small and medium sized charities and non-profits. The smallest of these have no staff and trustees / directors who are doing the operational work alongside strategic governance. The juggle is real. The struggle is real. Many feel like they’re trust fundraising while spinning a thousand plates.
For charities with one to a handful of employees, trust fundraising is something which often falls to someone with multiple other roles. They might also for example be the CEO, the finance officer and / or the person responsible for delivering projects and services.
People in these roles will typically find themselves working on tasks which are both urgent and (seemingly though not always after some analysis) important. Ensuring staff are happy, payroll goes through on time and compliance is adhered to are non-negotiable activities in the day to day.
Managers and directors for larger charities will also find their fundraising time reduced, though for different kinds of tasks, often relating to internal comms which are by design and necessity, complex in a larger set up.
Trust fundraising (and arguably other types of fundraising) will perennially fall into the ‘important but not urgent’ category. Unless you have spent years building strong relationships with multiple donors, chances are, they’re unlikely to be beating a path to your door demanding a proposal for funding from your charity.
- But how can you carve out more hours in the day when there are too few already?
- How can you spend time on an activity which feels alien and in which you have limited training?
- How can you manage the expectations of others about what’s possible (and what isn’t?)
Here are my three top tips for protecting your time and carving out more of it for trust fundraising
- Time blocking
There are around sixteen hours each day when we’re not sleeping. There is also scientific proof and anecdotal proof from the studies of high performing scientists, creatives and politicians that 4 – 5 hours of deep, productive, undistracted work each day seems to be about standard for human beings.
There are therefore 11 hours of time available to us. Take away a couple in the morning and four in the evening for family and leisure time and we’re left with five hours of unallocated time.
Trust fundraising needs to be categorised as ‘deep, productive work’ and cannot happen well if we’re distracted by other things (people, devices, emails etc).
Give it a try: Track your hours for a week. Use a journal to set out the days of the week across the top of the page and your waking hours along the side.
Fill out time blocks and as each day goes on you’ll get a sense of where you’re being super productive and where time seems to fly by with little or nothing to show for it.
Be honest, then at the end of the week, you can use the evidence you’ve gathered to make some changes to your habits, routines and choices.
For more and better tips on time blocking, check out this article from Jason and Caroline Zook of Wandering Aimfully who explain it in much more detail (plus there’s a free worksheet for you to download!)
- Dedicate time
Your time blocking exercise may well have revealed a couple of places in your week where you might be able to claw back some of the precious stuff. Don’t be afraid to block out a couple of slots each week to dedicate exclusively to trust fundraising.
Ways of protecting your time include:
- Put on your out of office
- Switch off your phone and close down your inbox
- Get out of the office (maybe work from home or head to a quiet coffee shop), my favourite workspace is currently my campervan, it’s cosy in the winter, warm in the summer and doesn’t have wifi
- Pop your headphones on if you’re in an office
- Take advantage of your company’s flexi-time policy. If you’re a lark (who doesn’t have early rising children), create a slot first thing in the morning. If you’re an owl, do an evening stint. However, you absolutely must take the time back in lieu (because all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy right?)
Carving out this space can be challenging at first. But if you want something, you have to make time for it. Be bold, be ruthless and don’t get distracted.
- Manage expectations
Here are a few truths about trust fundraising:
- Doing it well takes time
- There are important steps (research and preparing a template application) which come before sending letters
- Sending letters in isolation is ‘not a thing’ (you have to do your research properly)
- Sending letters (or the equivalent best practice) is not the end once they’re sent
The truth is:
- Crafting and honing (repeatedly) a killer template application takes time
- Researching and qualifying prospects takes time
- Filling in application forms takes time
- Gathering information about projects / participants / finances takes time
Even those lovely low maintenance trusts and foundations who ask simply for a two-page summary letter deserve a little bit of special attention (confession time, who else has tried to do too many of these in one day and sent the wrong letter in the wrong envelope?)
Give it a try: Starting from where you are, write down all the tasks you need to do relating to trust fundraising. These could include:
- Drafting a template cover letter
- Drafting a 2-page template proposal
- Crafting a long form template proposal
- Researching prospects
- Putting prospects into a calendar according to their application deadlines
- Setting aside time to phone trusts ahead of applying
- Filling in forms
- Writing letters and applications
From your experience, decide how much time you need to dedicate to each task to get it done.
Add a bit more time. Especially if you or your organisation is new to trust fundraising
You can then set some objectives attached to each of the time blocks you’ve carved out. Fundraising is such a measurable activity, even before you’ve raised any money. Being specific about what you’re going to do will reassure others as well as you.
This is not an easy or simple area to master. Please do share with us your experiences and ideas for combating distraction and carving out more time for important tasks such as trust fundraising.
Thanks for reading,
p.s. Trust the Process is our online training course. It contains everything you need to know about how to do trust fundraising really well (plus several effective little tips and tricks I’ve picked up over the years).
Click here to find out more and to sign up to hear all about our next launch.