Managing Your Time, Energy, and Work and Still Have a Life

Managing time is not easy.  It’s a life’s work, in fact.  For those of us in the nonprofit world, and especially resource development and institutional advancement, it feels even harder.  We have a passion for the mission; we are often understaffed; and with success comes more work, not less.

How to make it all work?

  • Start with clarity of your big priorities.  What are your top three to five “buckets” of work? As a consultant mine are clear. What are yours?
    1. Respond to current clients’ needs
    2. Get my invoices in, or the team can’t get paid
    3. Stay current
    4. Market
    5. Support the work of the rest of the team
  • Check with your supervisor.  What percentage of time should you spend, ideally, on each of your big buckets?
  • Determine reality.  How much time are you spending and what is getting in the way?
  • Have a conversation about fixing the imbalance.
  • Stephen M. Covey left us all a terrific tool. Identify those daily activities that land in each of the boxes and then find ways to eliminate all of those activities in boxes C and D. Emails come to mind.  Too many meetings. Other people’s urgencies. Use the time to fit in more activities from boxes A and B


  • Learn how and when to say “no.” This is liberating and does not have to be career-limiting.  “That sounds like a good idea.  I could devote 30 minutes to it tomorrow, but today I have to take care of (fill in the agreed upon priorities).  Should we take a few minutes and brainstorm together some other ways to take care of this?”

No one has time.  We could work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and never, ever be finished.  Our responsibility, therefore, is to pick the right things to do, and the right things to let go.

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Combat The Sitting Disease with Major Gifts Visits

by Karen Osborne

Maybe you read about this.  For every hour we sit after age 25, we lose 21.8 minutes of life-expectancy.  Compare that to smoking for example, 11 minutes lost for each cigarette smoked, and one realizes how important this new research is.  We need to get up.

Here are great prevention strategies for The Sitting Disease!

  1. Make appointments to go see your donors!  We can’t think of a better way for fund development professionals to stay healthy and lead a long and productive life.  Nothing beats an in-person meeting, one that is purposeful, strategic and engaging.
  2. Stand up when you make the appointment.  It will help with the sitting disease PLUS put energy in your voice.  People will want to be with you. Don’t forget to smile.
  3. Have a standing strategy meeting.  As you prepare for your visits, gather trusted colleagues but don’t sit down.  Brainstorming is often more effective when everyone involved is on his or her feet.  Put up an easel and flip chart. In five minutes or less, explain the key facts about the donor – motivations, values, interests, decision-makers, engagement to date, capacity, inclination and readiness to give.  Then, succinctly, state the issue and seek input.  Listen.  Take notes on the flip chart paper so everyone can see them, comment on them.  After ten minutes, fifteen on the outside, thank everyone and then return to your office to sift through the ideas and decide what you will do.
  4. Give three reasons. Okay, so this one doesn’t prevent the sitting disease but it’s still a good idea.  One reason can be handled with a phone call.  Even two.  But give three and we have a meeting.  Make sure the reasons are appealing to the donor. Seek advice, ideas, engagement rather than “I want to update you on what’s going on.”
  5. Inspire them to come to your site, campus, see your work up close and personal.  But instead of sitting in a conference room and folks coming to them, walk and talk.  Help your donors prevent the sitting disease as well.

Stop Cultivating Your Donors!

by Karen Osborne

Radical thinking?

“What’s happening with Mrs. Jones?”  “We’re having coffee; I’m cultivating her for a major gift for endowment.”

“What are you doing in New York next week?”  “I have five cultivation visits.”

“When do you plan to solicit George?” “He needs more cultivation.”

“Why didn’t that gift close?”  “I think I asked too soon.  She didn’t have enough cultivation.”


The word cultivation is a rubric that covers a long list of sins – but the biggest one is failure to be strategic. We need smart, intentional, measurable ways to advance relationships to joyful, generous, inspired yeses.

“I’m going to increase Mrs. Jones’ motivation to give an unrestricted endowment gift by sharing some of the big ideas we’ve brought to fruition with endowment gifts from the past.  Overcome her worry about how the money is handled by bringing the chair of our finance committee with me. Get her more deeply engaged, by asking her to review an endowment case for support.”

I know we need to code things, make it easy to track by using the software you use to manage donor relationships, but somewhere there needs to be an explicit strategy noodled on first, then written down, and regularly reviewed and adjusted after each strategic donor step.

When someone asks what’s going on with George, we need a thoughtful, strategic answer based on information you gleaned by visiting with the donor, asking great questions and listening.

“Our organization is number six on George’s list of charities.  In order to get the size gift we want and need, we have to move up to at least number three.  I think the tour will get him excited about our work.  Our CEO is going to ask him for advice at the end of the tour, testing his willingness to get more involved.  If that goes well, she intends to ask him to serve on a marketing task force.  Lois is chairing it, and she will be sure to keep him connected. Meanwhile, I need to find out more about his wife Carol and their oldest daughter.  Both seem quite involved with the decision making.”

Now you’re talking!

Welcome to The Osborne Group Blog!

Welcome to the official blog of The Osborne Group, Inc. consultancy!  It is our hope that this blog will serve as a resource for not-for-profits around the world to get advice and learn best practices in the areas of capacity building, philanthropy and management.  We also hope this can be a gathering space for not-for-profits to share ideas together.