Time: Our Most Precious Resource

I went to a presentation for nonprofits recently where the presenter argued that as a sector our biggest challenge was competing against each other for dollars, with increasing number of nonprofits vying for the same and fewer dollars.

It made me mad.

It wasn’t just the fear-mongering messaging but the fact that I knew he was dead wrong. As someone who has been immersed in this sector for almost 20 years, I know that competition for dollars is not our most pressing organizational issue.

It is time.

One client I spoke to recently said that after years of working in the private sector, she came to her current role and faced a stark reality: there was no way she could get everything done, or respond to everyone. And as such, she had to make peace with the fact that some things, many things, would have to drop. For executive leadership and staff, every day is a struggle to know where to invest our time – in cultivating that long-term relationship? In responding to that grant request?  Or investing in key partnerships with funders or the business community?

So if time is our organization’s most valuable resource, how do we make any progress in what is essentially a zero-sum equation? The answer lies in two key pivot points: prioritization and savings.

Prioritization:

We must make choices with our time. And if we don’t choose, we leech time to that which appears in our inbox or calls on our line.  For executive directors who are fundraising, focus is key.  We can’t cultivate 500 major donors or 100 foundations, but we can be strategic about our top ten. And the only way to get focus is though data. Do you have a system of sorting through your supporters, and identifying those with increasing engagement with your organization? Do you have a strategy in play to increase engagement at all to support your system? What about foundations? Do you have some definitive small steps this month, and throughout the year, that instead of overwhelming you provide you with a clear, organized action plan? Prioritization requires data and a way to manage your execution.  For impact tracking and program management we need a visible way to see quickly when applications are down from this time last year, or which clients haven’t checked in and need a push.

Prioritization examples in Salesforce?

  • Report on which supporters are your top 10, based on tagged level of engagement, capacity to give, and prior giving (if any). Then stick those into a campaign for this quarter.
  • Action plans or tasks in Salesforce to give next steps to your prioritization (or perhaps a third party project management tool outside of Salesforce that can bring key data in)
  • Program Dashboard that shows list of clients that haven’t checked in recently, and # of attendees at our last event

Savings:

I’ve spoken to countless nonprofits who say they are buried in email and can’t even begin to think big picture. I know nonprofits where it takes a week to generate a key report for a board meeting. I also know organizations that still need to fax lengthy client files back and forth to partners. In executing our missions, there is savings to be had.  The turning point for me with Salesforce was that I managed an organization where it took us a full two days each month to generate a federally-required report. Then, with Salesforce it took 5 minutes. Salesforce won’t solve all your problems, but if it is working right, it should save your staff time. And if it doesn’t, why bother?

Time-Saving Examples in Salesforce:

  • Standard Board Dashboard that tracks key metrics. Setup Board members as free chatter users and auto-email them key reports each month.
  • Email templates that include attachments, so program staff can quickly respond to a client or partner with all the associated docs attached
  • Third-party event management or form tool that will log RSVPs into a campaign
  • A tool like Cirrus that lets staff easily create new contact records directly in Salesforce, pulled from signature lines in gmail (an administrative assistant’s dream come true)

Salesforce is not just your CRM. It is your Organizational Management Platform.  Like anything worth investing in, it will take your time and focus to make it work for you, instead of against you. Ask yourself and your consulting partner: how can this platform help me prioritize and save time for myself and my organization?

Megan Himan has over fifteen years experience in the nonprofit sector and over ten years working on the force.com platform. She has a unique combination of deep technical skills paired with an ability to strategically convene groups, coach executives and leadership through transitions, and execute on project deliverables. She is Founder & Principal of BrightStep Partners - solutions with strategy for nonprofit success.

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Posted in Implementation Success, Organizational Management, Strategy
3 comments on “Time: Our Most Precious Resource
  1. Mic says:

    Well said, Megan! Also, a good reminder for those of us running non-profits. I like your focus on selecting your best 10 contacts and nurturing them! So often, my priorities become “just keeping up”. I’d like to hear more about Bright Step Partners.

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  2. […] written before that for nonprofits, time is our most precious asset. The beauty of a visualized pipeline or process is that everyone – program officer, COO, […]

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