Staying Focused

on in Fundraising

It’s impossible, in most nonprofit jobs, to get everything on your plate completed.

Efficiency issues aside, most nonprofits are staffed under a scarcity model – not enough resources to hire all the people needed to do the job right, so each nonprofit worker wears three hats and takes on multiple assignments that, collectively, assume 36 hours in a day to get it all done.

That’s old news. And there’s plenty of literature around about self-care for nonprofit staff, the importance of work-life balance, etc.

But what about now, when events outside our office door are riveting, whipsawing, compelling and pulling us even further away from getting our “day job” done? 


When colleagues gather around the proverbial water cooler to compare notes on their favorite TV show, that’s a way to let off steam, bond, detach in order to reattach to the work at hand. Two or three sentences on the latest episode of Game of Thrones, and it’s back to work we go.

But when nonprofit staff – most of whom are passionately dedicated to the public good – react together to the spate of political directives being released these last few weeks, it’s hard to return to “business as usual.” In fact, there are those who would argue that it’s morally wrong to, that the harms being promulgated are so great that all else pales in comparison, in the competition for our time and attention.

Yet… our work is needed too. In the great nonprofit universe, each and every cause, collectively, contributes to a better world for all of us.

So the question becomes, how can we absorb (and respond to) all that’s happening in the environment and give it its due, yet continue to honor the daily work of our nonprofits – which plays its own part in improving the world?

The first part of the answer is not to ignore it. Squashing distractions, disallowing Facebook or Twitter or NY Times alerts in the workplace, simply won’t work. Making employees sneak to the bathroom to check their phones is a negation of their full worth as engaged human beings.

But the second part of the solution is to discuss the issue, and to ask for balance, and for each employee to create systems to make sure they’re able to continue to get their FT+ job done. That might mean phone-free blocks of time, or working in assignment-delineated spurts, or even taking tasks home for completion so the job gets done even though it’s not performed entirely during working hours.

It certainly means defining clearly what needs to get done, as opposed to what you’d like to get done – so the goal is less ambiguous than the standard “work till you drop” operating procedure.

These are challenging times, on so many levels. Let us face them together, as committed, concerned, engaged individuals working collectively to improve the path for everyone.

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