Do your President and Deans know how many days a year you have to fundraise? I bet they will be surprised by the answer.

Recently I was talking with a senior university advancement leader who was concerned that the fundraisers in her colleges and units were being asked to do a lot of other things besides fundraising. She wanted to know how best to educate the deans about how limited the fundraisers time was to actually do the work of raising money. I leaned into an exercise that Bob Sweeney, the VP Emeritus at the University of Virginia (who conducted the largest public university campaign at the time of $3 billion) taught me many years ago. It is fairly simple but offers clarity about how precious time is and focuses your fundraising team and leadership on the task at hand. So how many days in a year do you actually have to meet prospects and raise money?

Starting at the obvious point of 365 days, the breakdown goes as follows:
  1. 240 working days per year (20 days per month X 12)
  2. 40 work days that are black-out or less productive periods through the year (i.e. Dec.15 to January 15 and July 15 to August 15). Your time periods might differ but there are dead periods in every calendar.
  3. 16 holidays and a minimum of two weeks of vacation (n=10 days)
    Subtotal= 177 days remaining for fundraising
  4. Well, as much as you might like to, you can’t fundraise every day, so what is your ratio for planning and follow up vs. visit days? For this exercise, let’s use a simple but aggressive 1 to 1 ratio. One day visit to one-day planning and follow up:
    177/2= 88
  5. 10 days for internal meetings and professional development

When all of this is taken into account, you end up with approximately 78 days per year.

The good news is that leaves plenty of time for a gift officer to conduct 125-150 visits per year; however, it does not leave a lot of wiggle room for other activities. This demonstrates the discipline needed to meet these goals.

This exercise can be used in the same way for the number of gift proposals needed per month. And if you get inspired, you can map out your entire campaign for the number of days needed to complete the visits and proposals needed to secure the gifts outlined in your campaign gift pyramid.


Take 10 minutes to do this exercise. Think about how you might use this to educate your president, CEO, Board, Dean, etc… and send me your tips about how to you educate leaders the value of time on task for fundraisers.

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