A Day in the Life (of a Nonprofit Pro)
If you review most dictionaries, the term “a day in the life” means to look at someone’s normal day of activity. I love the Beatles and heard the song, “A Day in the Life,” the other day. This song, written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney, was released in 1967 on the “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely-Hearts Club Band” album. The song title inspired me to write this blog post about a day in my life as a not-for-profit pro. I picked a day last week as an example.
6:15 a.m.: Leave the house for a day of work. (Travel)
6:45 a.m.: Arrive at The Salvation Army Indiana Divisional Headquarters office. This is my usual starting time during the week unless something unusual happens. I respond to emails and voice mails from the day/night before and type a solicitation letter to a company asking for a Radiothon sponsorship. (Correspondence)
7:15 a.m.: I meet with our foundation manager to review priorities for several potential grants and to determine strategy for an upcoming meeting with a major foundation. We review foundation production for the past month. (Major Gifts/Grants/Operational priorities)
7:45 a.m.: I spend a few minutes doing wealth engine prospect research on 30 prospects at the request of my development committee chair. I plan on reviewing this information with him face-to-face during the week. He agrees to help raise funds for the organization. (Prospect Research/Principal/Major Gifts)
8:15 a.m.: I meet with my major gifts officer to review her recent capital campaign class. We also discuss early plans to for her to direct a telefund program involving more than 400 “last-year-but-not-this-year” donors and 30 volunteers in the next 30 to 45 days. (Capital Campaigns/Telefund Techniques)
9:00 a.m.: I meet with our director of communications to discuss plans—printed and online materials—for a golf event to be held in eight weeks. On this day, we review three pieces of information to be sent to prospects by the golf event chairman, who is a golfer and former advisory board chairman. (Annual Gifts/Special Events)
10:00 a.m.: I quickly review the To-Do list, followed by the creation of an advisory board monthly report. I created and mail a thank-you card to a donor who I had just visited the day before. I provide a variety of materials to the donor. I also input visit notes for others to review. (Development Services)
10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.: I make a 200-mile round trip to another Salvation Army facility where I make a presentation to Salvation Army leaders and introduce these leaders to my Salvation Army development staff. Follow-up to this meeting will include my having to lead a future advisory board training session, creation of new marketing materials, identification of key local donors and personally soliciting prospects for funds. (Correspondence/Marketing/Advisory Board Training/Planning/Priorities, etc.)
3:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.: I present a lecture to college students in another state on such topics as the new Giving USA report; Pyramid of Giving; how to create a major gift program; plus how to secure time, talent and treasure for a not-for-profit. After this telephone lecture, I respond to their questions. (Education/Mentoring/Communication, etc.)
4:30 p.m.: I have a phone appointment with a consultant on the topic of how to move from a feasibility study to a capital campaign. (Planning Study/Feasibility Study/Capital Campaign)
5:30 p.m.: I meet with a young mentee that works at another not-for-profit at a restaurant to discuss potential new job opportunities and help with current job questions. (Mentor/Career Development)
7:00 p.m.: I chair my church parish council meeting. I lead the discussion on many agenda items. I am leader of our fundraising stewardship committee, Parish Council Nominations Committee and on the Church Festival sponsorship committee. (Management, Volunteerism, etc.)
9:30 p.m.: Arrive home after a long day.
Did you review my “typical” day? Did you notice the variety of management, non-management, volunteer and other roles I play in each day? I must raise money, while being responsible for a variety of management tasks. The pace is very demanding. That is why all of us must use the best of our abilities while keeping our body, mind and spirit centered. Try to balance all things and avoid stress as much as possible.
Please understand that you will make mistakes, but you as leader must walk the walk and help your staff. You must be trained and be ready to utilize all aspects of a nonprofit pro each day. A day in the life is only one day but understand each day will be different. Preparation and focus is key. Prioritize your To-Do list and strive for success, knowing it will come in different shapes and sizes. Learn to read, write, speak and communicate with internal and external constituents.
If you haven’t learned by now, nonprofit pros must be a Jack-of-All Trades and a Master of Some, if not all things.
Duke has extensive experience as a nonprofit practitioner, author, lecturer and consultant. He has been a contributing author to NonProfit PRO for the last 11 years. He has been a long-standing member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals where he was previously named the AFP Indiana Chapter Fundraising Executive of the Year and has held the CFRE designation for many years.
He received his doctorate degree from West Virginia University with an emphasis in education administration, master's degree from Marshall University with an emphasis in public administration and a bachelor's degree from West Virginia University with an emphasis in marketing/management. He has also completed post graduate work at the University of Louisville.
He is currently executive director of development for The Salvation Army Indiana Division in Indianapolis, Indiana. Contact Duke at firstname.lastname@example.org or 317-224-1029.