Nonprofit Well Being: Tips to Save Your Time and Sanity

Brooke Battle
Written by :

Brooke Battle

Categories: Fundraising

It’s 10:00am on a Thursday morning in a small room near a ballroom at the Marriott Marquis in Washington D.C..  The room is full of supplies and bags that the nonprofit and event staff are using as a base camp.   In an hour, over 1,000 guests will be entering the room next door for the annual signature fundraising event.    In the corner, I see the Director of Development tying bows on gifts for the luncheon committee. She looks exhausted and hasn’t yet had a chance to get herself dressed and prepped for the event. 

I could tell another story about a large, outdoor food event where I saw the Director of Development in t-shirt/shorts and sweating carrying hundreds of bowls through the entrance to deliver to each food tent.   

You know this experience and many reading this live it.    

We are part of an industry where budgets are tight.  As a result, we diminish the most expensive asset - our time. 


What is the cost? 

  • Opportunity cost:   What would you be doing if you weren’t tying bows and carrying bowls into the event?   Could you make plans to connect with a donor or sponsor?  Could you call a board member to encourage them to invite friends?  Your time is valuable.  
  • Burnout:   Your mental and physical well-being depend on your ability to get a restful night of sleep and to contain work to a respectable number of hours weekly.  Staff turnover costs more to the organization than hiring someone to help. 


Here are 5 ideas to will reduce your load and allow space for you to go home on time.


Reduce meetings:  As a development director, you are in a relationship business but not all meetings/events are worth your time.   Push all meeting requests and events through a process to evaluate its effectiveness.  You can ask the following questions:  (1) Does the organization just need a ‘face’ at this event - can I send someone else?  (2) Is this a strategic opportunity for the organization? (3) Will I learn something valuable with near-term consequences? 
  • Move an in-person meeting to zoom
  • Can the meeting/issues be handled with asynchronous communication

Redirect a high maintenance volunteer:  Humans are unique and all nonprofits have a volunteer or board member that requires more attention than their contribution.  In this case, consider the following: 

  • Ask that volunteer or board member for a large contribution to the organization. 
  • Redirect that volunteer toward an activity.   
  • In the case of a board member, rely on your governance documents and ask your board chair or executive director to create clarity around board to staff communication.  
Mitigate event planning/execution time:  The easiest answer to event planning/execution is to hire an event planner.  In doing so, you are likely supporting a small business owner in the process.   If you cannot hire an event planner, reduce your load by taking the following steps. 
  • Evaluate the event.  Look for time consuming activities that do not yield financial return.  This often looks like a silent auction with many items at a small dollar amount or a restaurant gift card tree without volunteer support.    
  • Is your event style difficult to execute?  Could you net similar (or better) results from a different event type?
  • Technology.   Use technology to automate event communication including sponsor tickets, table seating and ticketing 
Streamline marketing duties:   Many development directors also serve as the communications and marketing manager.  If this is the case, you must be as efficient as possible and only choose communication channels that yield results. 
  • Evaluate your growth and engagement on social media channels.  Choose one or two social media channels and eliminate others. 
  • Outsource donor email updates:   For a small amount, you can hire a virtual contractor to put together your donor email which will leave you fresh for the final edit.
Reduce distractions: 
  • Turn off your phone and email notifications for blocks of time.   Create space to complete big projects. 
  • Create a system at the office so that colleagues know when they can interrupt and when they should give you space.