The waste or misuse of time is one of the key reasons an MGO fails at his or her job.
Now, as soon as some MGOs read this statement many will say that their manager gave them some lousy donors and that’s the reason for the failure.  Or, the program people didn’t deliver what they should and that’s the reason they didn’t deliver what the MGO and the manager agreed on.
There are some exceptions, I know, but often, in Jeff’s and my experience managing and relating to hundreds of MGOs, it is the mismanagement of time that is the key reason an MGO fails.
Look at it this way:  you, as an MGO, have 150 qualified donors on your caseload.  150 donors.  That’s it.  You have no other task but to manage those donors.  You have 365 days to do that.  OK, you have to take weekends and vacation.  And there are holidays and business meeting days. So let’s do it this way:

  • 365 days in a year
  • less 104 weekend days (assuming you will never work a weekend day)
  • less 50 days of holidays and organizational business meeting days
  • Leaves you 211 days a year or 18 days a month!

18 days a month.  That’s all you have.
When you look at it this way, that’s precious little time to do ANYTHING but pay attention to the donors on your caseload.  This means:

  1. You can’t be doing any prospecting for new donors.  I know we have said it before, but Jeff and I will continue to say it.  You CANNOT spend time looking for new donors when you have a qualified caseload that you need to spend your time on.  You cannot do it!  I had one more instance just this week in which an MGO said, “Richard, I was looking at this list of very wealthy, high capacity people who live in my area and I think there is a great opportunity that we are missing.”  I wanted to grab him by the neck.  “Roger (not his real name)”, I said,  “how many times do I have to tell you that you have very little time and that your greatest chance of success is in working with the donors on your caseload who love you and the organization and want to help?  How many times have I told you that?”  “At least ten times, Richard”, he said.  “But I just can’t help thinking that we are missing something.”  Then we had a long and friendly conversation about why Roger just can’t help looking over the fence at the greener grass.  It’s complicated and I will dedicate a future blog to this subject.  But I convinced Roger to get back to his caseload and focus on his good donors.
  2. You can’t be spending the same amount of time with your B and C donors as you will with your A donors.  This is a common time waster.  The MGO spends hours with a C donor whom she just loves, and then very little time with an A donor who is difficult to deal with but has very high capacity and high inclination.  This tiering or classification of donors is a very strategic way an MGO can use time wisely.  It is a way to plan for less time to be used on C donors, a little more on B donors and the majority of the time on A donors. This works.  Just this week, Jeff called me about an MGO we serve who recently received a $1 million gift.  He has never had a gift from anyone on his caseload of an amount greater than $100,000.  But this $1 million gift came in because the MGO focused properly, spent a great deal of time with this donor and successfully matched the donor’s interests and passions to a need in the organization. This is a perfect example of how time used wisely paid off!
  3. You can’t be spending too much time in any meeting at the office that doesn’t directly have to do with the donors on your caseload.  This is a sticky one, because every MGO has managers and authority figures who just love to hang out in meetings, organize things and blather on for hours.  Don’t get me wrong.  I am not against meetings.  But we have too many of them and each of them are way too long.  I like the idea someone came up with about having meetings standing up.  No chairs.  You just stand there.  It helps to make things short and to the point.  Here’s my point: get out of every meeting you possibly can that doesn’t directly have something to do with the donors on your caseload.  You just do not have the time to sit in a meeting and listen to someone drone on about stuff!  You have to get out and be with your donors.
  4. You can’t be spending too much time in the office.  You know this one.  You have to be out with donors.  If you have an administrative assistant, let him do the in-office work.  Get out of there!  And if the admin person can’t do it, find another one.  You just cannot spend too much time in the office.
  5. You can’t be doing anything that doesn’t strictly focus your time on the task of fulfilling your donor’s passions and interests. Jeff and I have said this before, but it bears repeating.  Your central objective is to match your donor’s interests and passions to a real need your organization is meeting.  You have to do that with 150 qualified donors on your caseload.  That is all you have to do.  Nothing else.  It is a big job and a time consuming one.  And you have very little time to do it.  So get rid of all that non-essential baggage you have been carrying around.

Now you’ve read my opinions about use of time.  If you have to, toss half of it out as pure nonsense.  But you have to agree that a more disciplined and focused use of time will have its benefits in your major gift work.
So take that thought and answer this question:  How did you do in 2012 as relates your use of time?  Spend some time thinking about this.  And purpose to do better this year.  It will be one of the best decisions you have made.
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