Are you too busy to fundraise?

A special column for nonprofit leaders

The most valuable gift may be the gift of time. While we give the gift of our time through our actions, we cannot actually give anyone an extra hour. We all get 24 hours a day. No more.

Yet many of us are so busy it feels as if there isn’t enough time. In the nonprofit sector this manifests as “too busy to fundraise.” Very few people will say it out loud, but their actions are a clear communicator.

Here are a few of the common phrases we have heard in conversation over the years. “If I just had more hours in the day,” “I need more time” and all-time conversation starter “I’m just so busy.” We get it! Life is full.

But busyness can get in the way of fundraising. People are not ATM machines. Identifying, cultivating, and sustaining relationships with donors and funders takes time. And, for nonprofit leaders it should be a priority. It’s just not something you can delegate. Yes, you can have a development director – you may even have a team of professional fundraisers. But that doesn’t mean you are not the Chief Fundraising Officer. If yours is a small, grass roots or emerging organization it is even more important that you make the time for fundraising.

When leaders are too busy to fundraise we have a few suspicions about why that might be. Here are a few:

  • You don’t like to fundraise.
  • You lack understanding of the business and art of fundraising.
  • You don’t have a clear understanding of your role and responsibilities.
  • You have not yet embraced the idea that you are the chief fundraiser for your organization.

Luckily there are indicators that can shed light on this situation. Our unscientific study has identified ten indicators that you may be too busy to fundraise. Are any of the following familiar?

  1. Unable to return calls in a timely manner
  2. Lack of trust in staff and volunteers
  3. A tendency to micro manage
  4. Unable to set priorities
  5. Absence of a plan “B”
  6. Not able to focus – easily distracted
  7. Unable to embrace new ideas and let staff and volunteers run with them
  8. No time to spend time with top donors and prospective funders
  9. Lack of planning
  10. Lack of accountability and transparency

Once you realize these “indicators” get in the way of fundraising you can do something about them. The truth is that time keeps passing, and fundraising is something that needs to be tended to every day. But, it doesn’t all rest on one person’s shoulders. When you learn to trust staff and volunteers there are more people to help your organization achieve its fundraising goals. The same goes with learning to embrace new ideas and letting others run with them. Yes, these involve risk. But they are also ways to engage those closest to your organization in the important work of fundraising.

Don’t make excuses – get busy fundraising! You have enough time.

Copyright 2017 – Mel Shaw and Pearl Shaw, CFRE

Mel and Pearl Shaw are authors of four books on fundraising available on For help growing your fundraising visit or call (901) 522-8727.

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