Why 90/10 is the New 80/20

I was recently meeting with a newly-minted leader who was expressing to me how excited she was to be in a leadership role where she could engage with others to promote the institution as the premier school that it is.  As we talked more about fundraising and she asked me questions about how to secure gifts from various constituents, I told her “If you spend too many hours chasing a $25 check you have may have actually lost money.”

She was shocked because no one ever explained fundraising like that to her before, and we went on to discuss a way that she could use the portion of her time that she dedicates to fundraising in a way that yields the best returns for both her and the institution as a whole.

This conversation demonstrates why it is so important for fundraisers to have a serious conversation about time management.  The traditional fundraising number that is given in most conferences is that 80% of your dollars come from 20% of your donors.  Now people are starting to discuss whether it is actually 90% of dollars coming from 10% of donors.  While you could spend plenty of time discussing which example is most accurate, both illustrate why managing the way that fundraising staff spend their time is important. 

Even if you extend this formula to your annual fund, your dollars raised above the median gift are going to account for a larger piece of the pie than those that are in the bottom quartile. Having staff figure out the best way to use their time so they are focusing their energy on the top prospects for their portfolio or donor segment is important for maximizing the investment your institution has made in fundraising success

At The Gift, one of the things that we pride ourselves on is being an organization that is data-driven, cost effective, and metrics based. In fundraising there are limitless metrics that an organization can use to assess its success, but one that is less often focused on is time. 

There are countless tasks that fundraisers can take on throughout the day and things are thrown at them all the time.  From getting drawn into administrative tasks in the organization, to acting as the institutions marketing director at the same time.  There are endless demands on the fundraiser, and as much as we may try to deny it, there are still only 24 hours in a day.

While all of these tasks are important for the organization, a fundraiser should ask what value they are bringing by accomplishing a task.  If a senior vice president at an organization is getting involved with the minutia of the annual fund mailings so that it prevents them from focusing on principal gifts, the senior vice president is probably not using their time in a way that maximizes their talents.

At The Gift, when we meet with our clients we often help them create fundraising plans to best utilize the time that their staff spends working to advance the public good throughout the week.  Donor metrics and analysis are an important part of fundraising management, but time is also an important metric that many people overlook.  If you haven’t done a time study of you or your staff’s time, there is no better time than now. Once you do it, you will have a clearer picture of what is and isn’t working in your fundraising shop, and you will be one step closer to having a record setting fundraising year!