A simple personal leadership tool for executive directors and fundraisers

Or how to answer the question "What do you do with your time?"

In the last couple weeks, I've found myself sharing a tool with each of my private coaching clients. So I thought I'd share it with you too!

As a fundraiser, I know that I'm raising money most effectively when I'm not at my desk. But when I was running a hospital fundraising shop, I was the only employee that was doing his job by not being in his office. So I wanted to figure a way to objectively answer "What are you doing with your time anyway?"

That's how I developed this simple tracking tool.

Tracking your week

Each week or month, I'd do a quick review of my calendar. I had multiple hats, so I created labels for each:

  • Annual Fund
  • Capital Campaign
  • Major Gifts
  • Special Events
  • Planned Giving
  • Community Relations
  • Internal Meetings

Personal Leadership - weekly time

  1. For each hour, I'd make a hash mark.
  2. Then I'd figure out the percentage. I didn't want "hours" to be the focus. In our line of work, we can't simply punch a clock. Some weeks we're working 60-70 hours, some closer to 35. Hours are not nearly as important as outcomes. Keeping the statistics in percentage form helped keep the focus on the outcomes.
  3. After determining the percentages, I'd record them on an Excel spreadsheet so I had a copy on the shared drive.

Objectively identify the time sucks

Most of the categories are self-explanatory but "Community Relations" and "Internal Meetings" deserve additional explanation. The "Community Relations" category included groups where I was representing the hospital like Rotary or Chamber events. I included them because they helped me build relationships with donors and prospects.

The "Internal Meetings" were all the non-fundraising related meetings I was required to go to because I had to be "part of the team." Clinical meetings, manager meetings, retreats, meetings at our system headquarters, etc. Those meetings were a huge time suck. I enjoyed the people I worked with and was glad to be a team player. But I knew the hospital was paying me to raise money, and these meetings weren't helping.

This tool helped me in my personal leadership. It helped keep me accountable, making sure I was tending to things in all areas of the fundraising program. And it helped give me an answer for my CEO should he ask "What do you do with your time?"

I really wanted to free up time to dedicate to Major Gifts and Planned Giving. Those had the best return on investment but are the easiest to neglect. Annual fund and special events have urgent deadlines that drove action. But making a call to that major gift prospect could stay on my list for weeks.

What do your percentages look like?

Whether you're the executive director doing fundraising or a fundraiser, you can't wait for someone to make you do this. It's your career, you need to take leadership of it. When my CEO asked how I could raise more money, I'd show him the statistics and ask to be excused from some internal meetings. Each time being a "team player" won out. But I had the tracking to show.

I also found this tool helped give me perspective. For instance, as the gala approached, it would consume my week. Looking at this tool helped me see that this happened every year. That perspective helped bring a small bit of sanity to a chaotic season.

How about you?

Do you use a tool like this? Or have you found something that helps your own personal leadership of your position? Let us know in the comments!

About Marc A. Pitman

Marc A. Pitman is the CEO of The Concord Leadership Group, the author of Ask Without Fear! and director of The Nonprofit Academy. A coach to leaders around the world, Marc's expertise and enthusiasm engages audiences and has caught the attention of media organizations as diverse as Al Jazeera and Fox News. Marc’s experience also includes pastoring a Vineyard church, managing a gubernatorial campaign, and teaching internet marketing and fundraising at colleges and universities. He is the husband to his best friend and the father of three amazing kids. And if you drive by him on the road, he’ll be singing 80’s tunes loud enough to embarrass his family! You can connect with him on Google+, on Twitter @marcapitman, and like "Ask Without Fear!" on Facebook.
To get his free ebook on 21 ways to get board members engaged with fundraising, go to https://fundraisingcoach.com/21-ways/


  1. The Harvest App has been a great tool for me. It allows me to list projects or focus areas and it is has a stop and start button to track how much time is spent on each area. For a small amount of money, it has been a wonderful accountability tool and helps with determining ROI. Sheila - Director of Development, Open Arms

  2. Robert Gilman says:

    This is a very interesting idea – but I don’t quite understand how this helps to relate hours to outcomes.

    In the picture you show of tracking for a week it looks as if the percentages are all percentages of hours. Isn’t there a piece missing somehow that relates the hours to ROI for each category? Of course, some things, like internal meetings, (for everybody with a basic job to do like the boulder in the myth of Sisyphus) there is no way to calculate an ROI. But still, isn’t that relationship of hours to ROI a key piece?

    Bob Gilman

    • Bob, GREAT question. (And kudos on the Sisyphus reference! I was just writing about him in a leadership report!)

      You are correct: this is about output, not outcomes. This is about where hours go, not what becomes of them. I find people need to start at the beginning. And this is a good place to start.

      Plus, many don't really think about real ROI. They only think of "dollars raised per each activity." I happen to know from experience that my ROI in terms of money is better on major giving than direct mail and on direct mail then on special events.

      But, ROI isn't always financial. This employer had different "returns" it was measuring. For instance, the special event was AMAZING at engaging volunteers and creating a buzz in the community. It definitely had money goals, but the dollars raised didn't tell the whole ROI.

      And my work on major donors was evident at the end of the year but hard to track in the middle. It looked alot like me being out of my office hanging out with cool people. I was far more strategic than that, but that wasn't remembered as much as "Yep, looks like Marc's gone again."

      So I used this to show my boss that my money raised - part of the ROI on my job - would be better if I spent more time with donors. But my boss would then need to clarify that for the organization, part of my ROI was being present at the meetings. Of course, I would then have to remind him that at performance review times!

What would you add?