Time Frame Orientation relates to the natural length of time you consider when making plans, setting goals, and thinking about your future. Some people naturally see the impact of present decisions over a long period of time. Others see the more immediate impact of the decision. Some people prefer closure right away; others are willing to wait for years.

The Highlands Ability Battery groups people into three different time frame orientations: short/immediate (6-12 months), mid/intermediate (1-5 years), and long (5-10 years). Knowing about your time frame orientation can affect the way you plan and help make project management much less stressful.

****SHORT RANGE (6-12 months)****
People with a short range time frame can see the impact their decisions will have on the immediate future. This enables them to move easily from project to project and can be very helpful in jobs demanding immediate closure, like sales or accounting. The challenges for these people are learning the self-discipline and skills necessary to set intermediate and long-term goals. Their hunger for immediate results may hinder their ability to achieve over the long term.

One of my clients was incredibly relieved to learn she had a short range orientation. She always wondered why she typically had a vision for her life in 6 month increments. She’d often felt something was wrong with her. Now she saw that she was actually wired to plan that way. She could learn skills to help with the other ranges but she could now proactively choose to be in situations that required more immediate planning.

****MID (1-5 years)****
A mid range time frame is helpful in jobs requiring relationship building. People in this range are able to put off instant gratification to accomplish longer-range goals. These people are fairly flexible and are able to stretch themselves to set short and long range goals.

****LONG (5-10 years)****
People with a long range time frame are natural strategic thinkers. When planning, they naturally look at the impact the decisions will have on the long-term future of the organization. These people can endure work without immediate rewards in order to achieve greater future rewards. The challenge comes when these people fixate on the future when it no longer makes any sense.

People with long range orientation also tend to have a challenge finishing short-term tasks. They know they’ll get to them at some point and they always feel they have plenty of time. They often have very large piles of books-to-be-read. One husband with long term time frame orientation was putting 22% of his income toward his retirement plan while not budgeting for diapers. Diapers are an immediate pressing need! He could see the need but needed a coach to help him plan appropriately.

Often time frame orientation can be best illustrated in our personal life. An example would be the way a high school student approaches college. A short range person would have the application mailed but wouldn’t have any idea about what major they want to study or what goals they have for their life. A mid range person would have the application mailed too but would also have a very good idea what major they’re interested in and possibly what country they want to go to during their junior year abroad. A person with long range orientation would be able to tell you in detail what they want to be doing after college—what graduate school they’ll go to, what career field they’ll be in, where they’ll be living and how much they’ll be making. If you ask them about their college application or about what major they want, they’ll probably say, “Mom, do we have any college apps?”

Can you see the implications for fundraising? People with a short term orientation would be naturals for the annual fund. There are immediate goals that need closure. People with mid range orientation would be well suited for the relationship building of major giving and capital campaigns. They don’t have a natural need to see the gift come through this year, they’re willing to build the relationship and wait. A person with long term orientation will be well suited to thinking about the strategic implications of the fundraising program.

Couldn’t getting a sense of their time frame orientation help you immensely in communicating with donors and volunteers? Some donors get bent out of shape if you don’t reply to them in a day; others don’t even notice. Some donors want you to make the ask on the first appointment. Others would be a bit offended, preferring you to build a relationship first.

Where do you think you fit on this spectrum? Tell your colleagues about the three orientations and ask them which one you fit in. They’ll probably have a very clear idea! Then have fun and brainstorm about how this understanding can affect your office and fundraising. How is this going to impact your own development effort?

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