A. We have received quite a few questions in our annual survey on this topic. Let’s face it, there are fewer people having to do more and more every day. The simple answer is time management and prioritization. The more complicated answer is that there is no way to meet, let alone exceed, all expectations with half of the staff, few volunteers and a daily focus that cannot move past putting out fires. Let’s reexamine these shortages, and show you how to move forward.
Learn a lesson from President Obama. When your challenges seem to be overwhelming, don’t hide them in hopes no one will notice until you have moved on. Instead, take charge. Remind the staff, board, community stakeholders, members and any other relevant person, that you understand the challenges and that they are substantial. But, let everyone know that you have a plan in place to move forward. Manage people’s expectations and but be sure you have a solid plan to exceed them.
Let’s examine the shortages mentioned in the first paragraph. If you are short of staff, the most common reasons are: 1- you are looking to hire someone and have yet to find the ideal candidate, 2- you have always been short-staffed and have to find a way to overcome that challenge, or 3- you have had to have layoffs but the same work still has to be accomplished with fewer people.
If you are looking to hire someone, consider downloading our article Winning The War For Talent.
If you wish you could hire someone but cannot afford someone, consider the new and improved volunteer. In this economy, if you can offer a regular schedule, office space and part-time work to volunteers, you can often expect high-qualified respondents. Being out of work is tough in so many ways, but not having a reason and place to get up and go on a regular basis takes a toll. The offer of stability alongside flexibility and a place to go can be very appealing, even if you can’t offer a salary.
It Is Essential To Make A Plan
It may seem impossible to take time out to focus on an overview of the situation when you have fifteen balls up in the air. Consider this – if some external counsel (like, for instance, Mersky, Jaffe & Associates) were to offer you a day in which we helped you assess your organization to determine your priorities and strategies would you figure out how to clear a day? Probably.
Perhaps you do not feel like you can allocate financial resources to hire outside counsel. Some would argue that you really can’t afford not to hire someone. But, assuming that you do not have funds, why not plan a day in which your voice mail and email say that you are out of your office. Close your office door, grab a large coffee and focus on long-term strategy for the day rather than on putting out short-term fires?
To get back to the original question – one person cannot cultivate, solicit and steward prospects and donors and run a series of major fundraising events. Use your strategy “day” to determine whether you are a more valuable resource to the events, or to your major gifts program. Is your time better spent examining the annual appeal plan for the coming year with concrete benchmarks and contingency plans or do you need to revise budgets for each program because someone else needs them right away.
Determine exactly what you feel you need to do and what someone else could do and then you search for help from the board, other staff or a new volunteer “hired” specifically for a certain group of tasks.
Not all of the choices are easy, and not everything will go smoothly, but this way, you gain control rather than the work controlling you.