Is Your Development Staff “Billable”?

Being billable is not usually a way in which people speak of nonprofits or their staff. We do not account for our time in hours or fractions of hours and “charge” the time to different accounts. But what if this typically for-profit methodology would help you plan for year-end success? Could this 3-step plan change your mindset and your numbers?

Step 1: Take stock of your current status:

  • take 15 minutes and create a spreadsheet that will help you write down where you are in every aspect of your development plan (or use the sample spreadsheet that we have provided at the bottom of the article). Are you $10,000 short in your donor renewal efforts? $3,000 ahead in your major gifts?;
  • look at any blank spaces and spend 5 minutes figuring out who could help you fill in the blanks; and
  • spend 15 minutes calling those people.

Step 2: While looking at your spreadsheet consider this: if you continued on this same path for the next six months, would you:

  1. exceed your goals,
  2. be satisfied with what you will get, or
  3. worry about how you are going to fund certain programs?

Note your strengths as well as your weaknesses.

Once you have a complete picture, set up a meeting with your executive director and, depending on your organization, your board. Work together to decide what is vital to the success of your organization and whether your current priorities correspond with the organization’s goals. Time spent now will allow you to account for changes that have occurred in the past 6 months while managing expectations for the next 6.

Step 3: Figure out how to get from where you are to where you want to be.

In the end, you will have to decide which areas can stay on autopilot, which areas require more focus from the development staff, board, and the executive director and which areas enable you to remain at current levels. Assuming that you are unwilling to work 70-hour weeks or that there is no money for additional hires, let’s see how you can shift your schedule to improve your numbers.

It begins with taking a moment to return to that initial spreadsheet from Step 1 and switching to a for-profit mentality.

Lawyers, consultants or anyone with clients, is used to dividing time and energy by the hour or fraction of an hour. Success depends upon billing 40 hours a week or 168 hours a month. Now, divide your day as if you were billable for each hour of the day with the bills going to the Major Gifts, Special Events, Board/Leadership, Corporate and Foundation support, or whatever fills your day, even non-Development related work.

Do your billings correlate to monies received or proportionally from where the money should come? You will never achieve an exact hour to dollar match but it will help you evaluate your time.

It is true, that some things are vital to the organization while not raising the most money. Take the successful annual dinner – it is extremely time-consuming but this marquee event gets a lot of people involved and excited about the organization. Or, how about, the foundation grant that only bring in 10% of total revenue but keep a productive board member very engaged. Everyone has something like that with which to deal. The key is to be creative.

The solution may be to hire a talented but reasonably priced grant-writer through so you can make more calls to individual donors. Or you might find an intern from a local college who could help research prospective donors and manage the scheduling and agendas for committee meetings. Perhaps your solution involves calling Mersky, Jaffe & Associates to discuss methods of major gifts management that we have found particularly successful.

It may take time to figure out which solutions work for you, but the time will be spent ensuring you are on the right track. And in this way, you can plan for a successful second half of the year and beyond.