I am not and will never be a mathematician, but there is power in breaking things down using a little math to make them real. This blog grew out of a conversation I had with my incredible colleague, Erica Morris, who set me straight and also set me free in one conversation. 

Erica is a guru of organization. I mean, she has tricks and skills she learned while in the military and working all over the world. Recently, we were talking about my growing number of tasks that were behind schedule in our project management system. She asked me how much time on average a task takes me. When I said 15-60 minutes, she pointed out, in her amused and delightful way, that the reason I was feeling crazy was I kept assigning myself 10+ tasks a day! With all my meetings and tasks that pop up via email, I could really only manage maybe five tasks taking 15-60 minutes – on a good day!

To some of you, this might sound really simple. But I have to be honest: I was beating myself up for not getting more done and getting behind, when I was actually creating an expectation that was impossible to fulfill. So, let me see if I can bring a little of Erica’s wisdom to your reality. And hopefully this will be a bit eye-opening. But also set you free! 

As Richard Perry, our Founder, has pointed out for years, you really only have about 18 days in a month where you’re actually working, once you remove holidays and other days off. That means you have 144 hours each month to connect and build authentic partnerships with your caseload of donors. 

Ok, so that’s just a little less than one hour per donor. That sounds pretty doable right? Well let’s break this down further and look at what else you’re doing in those 18 days that’s not directly related to your caseload of donors. Here are some examples of different areas you can so easily get pulled into, either by request from your manager or just because you think it’s fun and enjoy doing it. 

  • Meetings: Team, department, and all-staff meetings, plus any extra meetings you’re invited to that don’t align with your role 
  • Systems: Data analysis and meetings with technical colleagues to problem solve issues
  • Utilizing Your Skills: Reviewing lists or PowerPoints for others, editing emails or marketing pieces because you are good at those things
  • Other Departments: Pulled into event or corporate planning and execution, unrelated to the development of your caseload donors 
  • Urgencies: Drop everything and help with x,y,z emergency 
  • Community: Spending time out in the community at events and meetings unrelated to your donors 

Spend a few minutes thinking through an average week. How many hours are you spending doing things that are not related to your donors? Some are probably necessary, like a staff and department meeting. But even necessary meetings can be done in a streamlined, only-as-needed basis. 

In your estimation, did you just identify 5, 10, or 15 hours of your average week spent not focusing on your donors? Let’s be generous and say it’s 2.5 hours a day. That takes 50 hours off of your 144 total work hours, leaving you with 94 hours a month to take great care of 150 relationships. So, now you have a little over 30 minutes per donor per month. 

Now, let’s break down what types of tasks you’re doing per donor and how much time they take. Tasks may range from 5 minutes to multiple hours per donor, depending on supplies, CRM capabilities, and admin support. Your task list may include things like:

  • Write personal thank you card
  • Make a quick thank you call
  • Write a meaningful email
  • Make a donor call to discuss a program
  • Take an already created touch point (Newsletter/Story), add a note to personalize it for your donor and put it in the mail 
  • Take a story you heard and write it up in an email to send to a donor interested in that program
  • Research a donor
  • Research articles on a topic of interest to your donor and then email them that link
  • Think through your donor strategic plan and decide what is the next step now that you have more information
  • Create a proposal for a significant ask 
  • Work on the language and approach you will be taking for an ask
  • Reaching out to a board member or other community member to learn more about a donor and how you might more meaningfully connect with them
  • Talking to and meeting with program staff, or visiting a program so you can more meaningfully speak about that program to your donor 
Are you getting the picture now of why we say being an MGO is one of the hardest jobs?!

You have a lot of relationships and a lot of tasks to complete each month that you want to do in a thoughtful and strategic way that is present to who your donors are as individuals. This is why The Veritus Way works. It helps you to first qualify your donors (confirm they want a two-way relationship), tier them, set a goal, and build a 12-month plan for every donor. In that way, you can actually get your arms around all of this work and create an individualized and authentic partnership, but you still have to protect your time, even with all of this structure and support. 

I know this may feel overwhelming right now. Maybe you just realized you have way more on your plate than is possible to do and you don’t know how to start changing your reality. 

Here are a few things you can do:

  • If your role is not 100% major gifts focused, don’t push yourself to have a full caseload. If you have 50% focus on major gifts, then your caseload should be at 50% capacity. (That means 75 donors instead of 150.) 
  • Bring this to your leadership to talk through how you can free up time in your schedule to do donor-focused work. You may not be able to make changes immediately, but come with a plan for how you could slowly transition. 
  • Consider where you can engage other team members or even volunteers to help you focus on impactful, strategic work with your donors! Your Board is also a great group to partner with for special touch points that can lessen your load and have a big impact for your donor. 
  • Start implementing The Veritus Way to help you create a focused approach to your caseload that helps you spend the right time on the right donors. (We offer this whole system and structure in our Certification Course, but you can also find a lot of free materials in our White Papers.) 

I hope this was eye-opening. But I also hope it felt freeing too as you got a clearer picture of what is really taking up your time. And I hope it helps you be able to more clearly share with your manager what would help you carve out more time to be relationship focused.