As donor relations professionals we are often given tasks with finite deadlines and involving key stakeholders. But how do we determine if the work is urgent or important and what is the difference? Urgency suggests a denotation of short term expression of need while important makes us think of the long term. So how do you divide and conquer your projects and how do you know what truly has a sense of urgency?
Often, it feels like Donor Relations is firefighting and tackling the important or urgent issues of the day. I want to encourage you to consider all of the work you do as important, and crucial over time. Try not to live in a constant state of urgency. The reason I suggest this is because a constant flurry and sense of urgency keeps one reeling and never allows you to get ahead and to plan. Urgent tasks put us in a reactive mode, one marked by a defensive, negative, hurried, and narrowly-focused mindset. You are always in reactive mode instead of proactive mode. You can never get ahead if everything is urgent. When we focus on important activities, we operate in a responsive mode, which helps us remain calm, rational, and open to new opportunities.
Yes, all of your work has deadlines and a sense of timeliness; important work is sustainable and reasonable. Urgent work can be frenzied, and things can get lost in the shuffle. Event planning can often come with an increased sense of urgency because the event date is finite. There are often last-minute scrambles to cover ever-changing details but for the most part, if you’re scrambling the week before the event, then your planning process didn’t have enough importance. I’ve been there, believe me. You can pull off these things with last minute changes, but it sure doesn’t feel great.
So how do you cope when others decide what on your plate is most urgent? Have you ever had that moment when you finally get it all together only to have someone drop by your desk and pile on something due yesterday? It can be so frustrating. Instead of doing that audible deep sigh and scrambling to work on the next urgent thing, ask the person if this project is urgent or important. Meaning, is this something that just has to get done right now in an urgent manner or is this something important to the long term sustained fundraising success of your organization? If the answer is the latter, then you need to take a step back and enter the planning process. Don’t just dive into the task to complete it. Ask yourself some questions to evaluate. And if all else fails, use the chart I’ve copied for you below created by Eisenhower. It will help you figure out where to start and why!
So ask yourself today, is it urgent or important? What does this mean for you?