5 Tricks to Finishing Fundraising Projects
Ever been victim of a time suck?
I was cleaning up my desk, going through the overflowing inbox and assorted piles that had grown tall and unruly over a couple of months. My work space had been compromised and unattended to dribs and drabs, and it was time do something about it. I sorted the piles on my dining table until every paper found its rightful place.
Now, you might think that I felt great by the time it was all done. But you’d be wrong. I was sorely distressed. Why? Because in those stacks of papers, I found pieces of six unfinished projects. I had put lots of time and energy into them, and they were actually pretty good, but they were unfinished.
They were about 85 percent done. But rather than finishing them, I had put them aside. They had become a time suck. And the last thing development directors and executive directors, who already don’t have enough time to raise money, need is a time suck. When you’re spinning a lot of plates, you don’t want those plates to be half full, only to fall and break before providing any real value.
Fifteen percent undone equals 85 percent time wasted.
For the first time ever, as I looked at that pile of unfinished projects, I realized how much time I’ve wasted by abandoning projects that are 85 percent done. All that time and energy and effort and then… nothing.
2 Reasons Projects Go Unfinished
There are two primary reasons people have trouble finishing things:
- For some people, coming up with the ideas is far more fascinating than tying down all of the loose ends and getting the details figured out.
- And for many people, sending products out in the world and subjecting them to public scrutiny can be scary, so they put it off.
But it’s also a matter of personality. Some people are great at coming up with ideas and developing them in their early stages. Other people are better at follow-through.
I fall into the first group—great at generating ideas and less good at getting them done.
Do you know which group do you fall into? How about the key members of your team? Identifying these personality traits can help your team work together to fill in the gaps and get more accomplished when make-it-or-break-it projects are on the line.
5 Ways to Stop Yourself From Leaving Projects Unfinished
If you or any member of your team is like me—a better starter than finisher—then these five tips are for you. Let’s get stuff done!
1. Don’t start unless you know WHY you’re doing it.
- What’s your goal?
- Does it matter?
- Is it important?
- Is it leveraging your time or wasting it?
If you know the goal and the answers to the other three questions are “yes” then go ahead. If not, ditch it before it becomes a time suck.
2. Create a road map. Once you decide to move forward, make yourself a road map that shows the project in bite-size pieces and map them out on your calendar. Check them off as you finish them. Research shows that the habit of checking things off motivates people to get them done.
3. Get help! You don’t have to do it all on your own. You can hire someone new or look to a current member of your team to do the finishing. That has the added benefit of giving you a deadline and knowing he or she is waiting for it. Or, if you can’t hire someone, ask a friend to meet or talk with you regularly about your progress.
4. Imagine your success. Promise yourself a treat when you get it all done. (I’ve got an Apple watch in mind! Guess I better get going on one of my unfinished projects!)
5. Plan a celebration. Finally, don’t forget to celebrate when the project is done. Pick a reasonable date and invite your team, your friends or both to celebrate with you. It doesn’t have to be fancy—an evening at your favorite restaurant is perfect.
Discover What Motivates YOU to Finish
If getting things all the way done is a challenge, what do you find most helpful? Think back on the projects you’ve completed. Were there external conditions that forced you to finish? Have you found some other tricks that worked well for you? Would some of my suggestions work?
Make a mental note of the best ways to motivate yourself, and take advantage of those tricks to complete your future projects.
Andrea Kihlstedt is an innovative leader and expert in capital campaign fundraising. She wrote "Capital Campaigns: Strategies That Work (4th ed)," often referred to as the “bible” of capital campaign fundraising. She founded Capital Campaign Masters and co-founded Capital Campaign Toolkit, an online capital campaign resource and platform.