A Simple Trick for Using the First Hour of Your Fundraising Day

I’m a big believer in the idea that you should prioritize your workday, getting the most important, energy-draining, creative work done first, before you get to the daily grind of thank you notes, data entry, e-mails, etc.

It’s a hard thing to do – when you arrive at your non-profit’s office, there’s a lot of temptation to go through each and every e-mail in your inbox, check your voicemails, and open up the day’s mail to see if there are any checks. But, when you do these things first, they often take up most of your day, as you get pulled into new projects by the e-mails and calls you receive.

One simple trick I’ve learned is to set aside the first hour of your fundraising day for accomplishing something really important – something that will move the ball forward for your organization. If you can resist the urge to answer e-mails and work on “small picture” stuff for the first 60 minutes of each day, you can start the day with what really matters, and in the process gain a huge sense of accomplishment that often extends to the rest of your day.

How Exactly Should You Use the First Hour of Your Day?

When I share this trick with non-profit fundraisers, one of the most common questions I get is, “Joe, that sounds great, but we’ve got so much going on, and all of it is important. How can I choose which items are the most important for our fundraising success?”

The answer is different for every non-profit, however for most organizations, the most important fundraising items are also those that we most often procrastinate on… things like calls, asks and writing projects. These things can be hard work, but are of utmost importance to your fundraising progress.

A Simple Schedule for Your First 60 Minutes

If you’re still not sure what you should be focused on during your first hour of each fundraising day (or even if you are, but you’d like to mix things up a little and try something new), here is a simple schedule that I share with fundraisers for how they can use the first hour of each day to complete work that really matters for their fundraising bottom line:

Monday – Schedule Meetings

People are busy on Monday mornings – they get into their offices with a full to do list, and without anything accomplished yet for the week. For that reason, Mondays aren’t great for ask or cultivation calls… you’ll have a hard time keeping your donor’s attention.

Instead, use your first hour on Monday mornings to schedule meetings for the next few weeks. Make the calls and send the e-mails that will get your donor, prospect and board meetings set up. Because schedules will often need to be juggled, making these calls on Mondays will allow you plenty of time during the rest of the week to do the back and forth that is required to get these meetings on the calendar.

Remember: meeting with donors, prospects and board members in person is one of the best things you can do to supercharge your organization’s fundraising.

Tuesday – Ask Calls

Spend your first hour on Tuesday morning making ask calls – picking up the phone and calling the 3, 4 or 5 prospects who are ready for an ask, but who will not require an in-person ask meeting. These calls can be for annual gifts, major gifts, monthly giving, events, etc.

Imagine how successful you will feel going through the rest of your week knowing that you’ve already gotten 5 ask calls out of the way!

Wednesday – Donor Cultivation Calls

Use this time to call prospects who are in your pipeline to continue building your relationship with them. These calls can be a great opportunity to check in, ask for advice, tell stories about your work, and in general make your prospects feel like they are part of your team. Personal phone calls can go a long way in moving prospects towards making a first gift.

Thursday – Writing Projects

Most fundraisers have at least one or two major writing projects they need to complete. Why not use the first hour of every Thursday morning to get them done?

You can use this time to write proposals, gift agreements, grants, website content, fundraising letters, newsletters, or any other fundraising communication items (but not to send out thank you letters or event invitations – that’s just busy work).

Of course, you probably won’t get done all of your writing in just one hour per week, but having this dedicated time set aside at the beginning of your day on Thursdays will ensure that you have some time to write when you are fresh, energized, and not distracted by all of your other fundraising responsibilities.

Friday – Donor Stewardship Calls

You’ve made your ask calls and you’ve made your cultivation calls. Don’t forget about donor stewardship! Friday morning is a great time to call some of your current donors to keep in touch and update them on the work you are accomplishing through their donations.

Personal stewardship calls are an amazing way to keep donors giving year after year, often with increasingly large gifts.

There’s a lot to do to ensure the fundraising success of your non-profit. Try setting aside the first hour of each day to get something really important done, and you’ll move your non-profit forward faster than ever before.

Photo Credit: John Morgan