Day in the Life

Photo of Hafeezah Abdullah

A Day in the Life – Hafeezah Abdullah

Day in the Life of a Fundraiser – Hafeezah Abdullah Day in the Life of a Fundraiser features the workday routine of awesome fundraisers and is inspired by Kivi Leroux Miller’s and Kristina Leroux’s series for nonprofit communicators over on the Nonprofit Marketing Guide.  Hafeezah’s Bio: Hafeezah Abdullah is the Chief Donor Relations Officer for SumOfUs, where she directs donor engagement and institutional advancement for a global consumer advocacy group of 18 million people. She is a fundraiser, event producer, and strategist with more than a decade of experience advising nonprofits and political campaigns. Previously, she has worked with the Democratic National Committee, Sunlight Foundation, Breakthrough Institute, and many others. Hafeezah is a graduate of the University of Maryland-College Park, Justice Democrats Fellow, and Board Vice-Chair for Good Energy Collective.  before 8 am – I work for a digital campaigning organization that operates in six global regions, so I check my email and Slack the night before since colleagues are in so many timezones. Then in the morning, I go for a run (yay health) and listen to a daily news podcast so I know what’s happening in the world.  8 am to 10 am – Luckily I work from home, so I don’t have a commute and can ease into my workday. I usually spend half of my day having internal and external meetings. So, the first thing I do is check my calendar and set alarms for all my engagements so that I’m on time and prepped for each one. And then send emails to either follow up with a donor and/or partner on a previous discussion. 10 am to 12 pm – Meetings are usually the name of the game during this time frame. Because SumOfUs challenges corporate power on a range of issues like fighting for workers’ rights to demanding big tech accountability, I spend a good portion of time reading about various issues or prepping for virtual meetings. Sometimes this means presenting our work to external partners and other times it means meeting with program officers.  12 pm – 2 pm – I am a late lunch eater and also like to be productive while eating lunch, so I usually will make something in my air fryer while listening to the news or podcasts. Or, and this is not the healthiest of approaches, I have another cup of coffee and power through more virtual meetings.  2 pm – 4 pm – As the only person who focuses 100% of their time on this work at my organization, being organized is key to me ensuring that nothing falls through the cracks. So, the latter part of my day shifts to the more glamorous parts of my job, like conducting donor research and updating Salesforce or other tracking systems for grants.  After 4 pm – My creative juices usually flow later in the day, so I spend this time writing, deep thinking, and prepping for tomorrow. A large part of my job is cultivating relationships with foundations and other decision-makers, and that requires a lot of writing such as concept notes, meeting briefings, proposals, revisions to proposals based on donor feedback. Around 6pm, I often have a virtual happy hour or catch up session with a former coworker or other people that work in the progressive space.

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Day in Life – Covid-19 Edition – Cynthia Khoo-Robinson

There’s so much to say about Cynthia. We met through the AFP Cincinnati Mentoring Program and she’s been an amazing mentor to me ever since. She introduced me to higher ed donor relations and stewardship, which was exactly what I needed at the time to become a more well-rounded fundraiser. The photo on the right is the Cincy gang at ICON 2018 in New Orleans. Thank you, Cynthia, for always having my back and sharing your new found routine with us! Cynthia Khoo-Robinson, CFRE, Associate Vice President of Alumni Engagement & Annual Giving at University at Buffalo, Buffalo, New York, USA Cynthia has more than 30+ years experience raising money for mission-driven institutions and causes, and is higher ed fundraising pro. She is a CFRE, a past board member of the AFP Cincinnati Chapter, and a CASE speaker. From Cynthia: Pre Covid-19: I look at my phone and scan my emails, text and WhatsApp as soon as I get up. I try not to get lost in it (which I sometimes have done) as causes me to be late in leaving the house). I Face Time my husband every morning for our drive into work (between 7:30 – 8 a.m.) and every evening, as we live in two different city and state. I get my coffee in the office and start into my emails or conversations with my staff right away. I am in meetings most of the day with hardly much down time to think and prep. Thank goodness for a great team, my #2 and my Executive Assistant who help me stay on point, as I go from one meeting to the next. I spend my days in planning meetings with different teams: annual giving, alumni engagement (regional, young alumni, signature events, life-long learning), major gift officers, campus partners, Deans, Alumni Board president, etc.  I have meetings with the Executive Team every Monday morning in North Campus (my office is in South Campus). Lunch is usually at my desk, many times late and hurried. I usually stay late to take care of emails and prep work for meetings the next day and usually work until 6 – 7 and sometimes 8 or 9 p.m. If I end my day in North Campus, I then get home early (as I live closer to that campus). I get dinner at a decent time and then I hop back online to answer emails or prep for meetings. PreCovid-19, I was traveling a lot. I would be in the office a few days a week, every other week or so. We have alumni all over the country and the world. I represent the university and attend as many in-person events as I can. I was in airports more than in my office until now ☹. Current Situation with Covid-19: As is the case all over the world, we are practicing self-distancing and I have been telecommuting since March 18. I keep a routine of waking up around the same time (actually can sleep for ½ hour longer since I don’t need to drive to the office). I scan my emails and text messages quickly, hop in the shower, fix my hair, apply make-up and get dressed (Business Casual) and I’m online by 8 a.m. The day is filled with Zoom meetings, back-to-back. We are also using Skype for Business and I love the quick chats via text or video. The quick video chats make it feel as if we are popping into each other’s office. Video conferencing has been fantastic and has helped to curtail the feeling of isolation.  But having back-to-back meetings have been draining. In the beginning, we needed to communicate a lot: encouraging social distancing, cancelling in-person events, developing guidelines for telecommuting. As we settle into our new norm, we are learning to schedule breaks in between. Technology is fantastic and the positive outcome of having the whole office work remotely has allowed everyone to get comfortable with video conferencing. It will be a new way of working even when we return to the office. We will be more efficient with this new way of meeting instead of driving between campuses (we have 3 campuses here) and going to different buildings (especially in the blustery winter). As we continue to stay in isolation, we have to continue with our work. Our Major Gift Officers are finding it easier to connect with their donors/prospects as everyone is at home. Some are even having video chats with their donors. Our Annual Giving team has to develop a new focus as we postpone/cancel all mailings, Giving Days and phonathon. Alumni Engagement is ramping up virtual engagement – offering webinars, virtual happy hours, book clubs and online community for mentoring and socializing.

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Day in the Life – Covid-19 Edition – Kat Steiner, CFRE

Covid-19 is disrupting business as usual. Curious to know how your fundraising colleagues are managing and keeping the balls in the air in other places? Here’s the Covid-Edition of “A Day in the Life”. A BIG thank you to Kat, who is one of the most thoughtful and resourceful fundraisers I know and immediately agreed to share what effects she’s experiencing. Thank you, Kat! Kat Steiner, CFRE, Director of Development, The Girl Scouts of Western Ohio To fundraising, I’m learning to stop with the tasking and start thinking holistically.  I’m very sensitive to the fact that one in five people are projected to be unemployed. For me, this is an opportunity to put a pin in donor asking and to focus on donor relations. We have the amazing good fortune to work with generous people who inspire me and I think it’s important to take care of them. Now is the time to be sensitive to solicitations and to be there for our people. Let’s slow down and do this right! Before 8:00 am before Covid-19: 5:15 am – Wake up. When the alarm goes off, the first thing I do is look at emails and then my calendar for the day. I get up 3 times a week to exercise at 5:30 am. I get up, brush my teeth, put my workout clothes on and head out the door. I’m a single mom, so this the only time that I’ve been able to consistently workout. I’m home by 6:30 am so that I can get my son, David, up, make breakfast (always eggs and toast), and get him ready for school by 7:45 am. From there, we get in the car and I drop him off at the junior high school. Before 8:00 am after Covid-19: 6:30 am- Wake up. I still look at emails and daily calendar before I’m out of bed. I also continue to exercise for my mental health. It’s important for me to get in 5,000 steps before getting in the shower and making breakfast. Online schooling means there’s not a school drop off, but we’re both settled in on our computers by 8:00 am ready for our day! 8:00 am to 10:00 am before Covid-19: I have left the house by 8 am and I usually have a 30 minute commute where I listen to podcasts or an audiobook. It’s an efficient use of my time. It’s not unusual to have morning meetings with donors for coffee or breakfast. Many like to meet before 9 am. If I don’t have a morning meeting then when I get in my office I read my daily emails, open Donor Perfect to see if any gifts have processed, and send out email confirmations or agendas for meetings that day. If my day isn’t too busy, I’ll do a few quick thank you notes or emails to donors to express gratitude for their support and I touch base with team members. By about 8:30, my day is in full swing with meetings, calls to donors, portfolio reviews, and coffee visits. Depending on the time of year, I have two modes. There is special event planning and then managing my donor portfolio. Either way, my day consists of a lot of planning, setting up meetings, coordinating, and rescheduling. When you’re trying to meet up with really busy people, cancellations are common. It involves a lot of logistics, which is a tough part of the job. Scheduling a meeting for seven or eight people on an event committee or to see four busy donors over a week can be difficult as schedules are constantly changing. Winters can be terrible with snow impacting travel plans and peoples’ schedules. 8:00 am to 10:00 am after Covid-19: No commute! The routine of responding to emails, Donor Perfect, and email confirmations is important and remains. I’ve found that connecting with my colleagues has been more important than ever. Leadership in these times is often a warm affirmation and being empathetic to others is necessary during these uncertain times. Positivity is so important and I try to be a light for others! 10:00 am to 12:00 pm before Covid-19:  This really depends on the day. I really like having time to work without any interruptions but this is when Girl Scouts often schedules regional and team meetings. This is when I try to work through all the critical stuff that absolutely must get done that day. So, donor calls, sponsorship drafts, and any important deadlines all ideally get done before lunch because I’m not always back at my desk in the afternoon. 10:00 am to 12:00 pm after Covid-19: The world has taken a pause. Emotions and anxieties are super high. That means that sponsorships, solicitations, and deadlines are all in question. Sensitivity is critical and so is donor relations! This is a time to be there for our donors.  For me, I’ve spent hours intentionally calling donors to ask how they’re doing and to do wellness checks. The calls have been well received and – because most everyone is at home – people are answering! This has been an amazing way to authentically connect while genuinely caring about people and letting them know we are all trying to figure this out. 12:00 pm to 2:00 pm before Covid-19:  There is about a 40% chance that I have a donor visit for lunch. If I’m not meeting with a donor, board member, or event committee member then lunch is at my desk. I seldom go out for lunch unless it’s a donor visit because, to me, it’s valuable time to work. I usually eat lunch at my desk and spend time preparing for an afternoon meeting or visit. It could be fine tuning a case for support or doing prospect research or even making copies, but it’s likely that I’m already strategically moving the needle on a future encounter. 12:00 pm to 2:00 pm after Covid-19: Currently, I’m really working on communicating with donors and

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Day in the Life – Tracy Wells

Welcome to a new series I’m starting on the “Day in the Life” of a fundraising professional! It features the workday routine of awesome fundraisers and is inspired by the series for nonprofit communicators over on Kivi’s Nonprofit Marketing Guide It is a honor for me to kick-off this new series with the workday routine of my mentor and friend Tracy Wells. Tracy has been a true rock in my personal professionalization journey. We had a blast working together on National Philanthropy Day for two years in a row and together with Aaron Bley, we call ourselves the 3 Musketeers. Tracy is an inspiration – she has vast experience, she’s been in development director roles for more than 20 years, her board members and donors adore her, she is the mom to two beautiful sons, works out every morning, eats healthy, is a leader in the community, and an active member in the Cincinnati AFP Chapter. Tracy Wells, Vice President, Development at YWCA Greater Cincinnati With 20+ years of strategic fundraising experience, Tracy focuses on building community relationships & securing funding to sustain & grow programs & services that empower women & eliminate racism at YWCA Greater Cincinnati. She has a MBA from NKU, is past Chair of National Philanthropy Day, and is a Forty Under 40 winner.  before 8 am: Most days I’m up at 5am to workout.  As a working mom of 2 very active boys, that’s often the only time I have for self-care. A master multi-tasker, I check emails, social media, and news headlines while I dry my hair.  Then it’s packing lunches and getting Will and Gabe to school on time, practicing spelling words or preparing for a quiz during the drive to school.       8 – 10 am: I prefer to begin my day with external meetings to minimize my drive time.  I also prefer coffee meetings to lunch meetings.  It can be difficult to have a meeting with food/wait staff interruptions.  Plus, working for a nonprofit I try to minimize such expenses if I’m picking up the bill.  When I come straight to my office downtown, I begin “rounding” when I arrive, touching base with each person on my team about any pressing issues.       10 -12  pm: My most productive time of day is mid-morning.  That’s saved for proposal writing, phone calls, lengthy email responses, report production – tasks that require the most undivided attention. However, I am always available to my team even when focused on a task.  My #1 priority is supporting each of them in their success. I also keep an ongoing “to do” list so I don’t drop any balls (hopefully).  And I have a giant whiteboard in my office charting out the fundraising plan.   12 – 2 pm: Most of our committee and team meetings are at lunchtime (12:00).  I try to pack my lunch so I’m making healthy food decisions.  If I have time and no meeting, I try to read professional articles or local business paper while I eat at my desk.    2 – 4 pm: I have a standup desk, which is a lifesaver!  Standing up helps me stay focused when my energy starts to drain from getting up so early.  The hardest part of my job is logistics.  Trying to meet with busy people, individually or as a group, can be challenging and time-consuming without administrative support.  I also like to use this time for research since I find that to be energizing.  I also try to end my day with external meetings, again to minimize my drive time.  After 4 pm: I try to end my day at the office by looking again at the rest of the week, not just the next day, so I can begin thinking about how I manage my time the following day to prepare for the remainder of the week or the next week.  Being a mom, I’m racing to get boys to tennis, soccer, baseball, or any other seasonal activity, then home for homework, dinner, and bedtime.  I try not to check email during that time and be present with my family for nerf gun wars and jigsaw puzzles.  I also try to minimize evening work activities to one a week to have the best work-life balance possible.  I unwind from 9:30-10:30 by watching a TV show, reading, doing a crossword puzzle, or meditating.  No two days are ever alike, which is one thing I enjoy most.  I feel very lucky to get to do this work, and at the same time wish this work wasn’t needed. 

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