21 time-saving tips for busy nonprofit professionals


One of the most common questions that I am asked is, “Dude, how do you manage to find time to write a regular blog post each week, while being a full-time ED, while also maintaining a family that includes a two-year-old, while also coordinating the underground Nonprofit Fight Club?”

Oh wait…uh, forget the last part. There is no underground Nonprofit Fight Club. Not at all.

As nonprofit warriors, most of us are strapped for time. Many of us have work that does not end when the day ends. Like artists working on a painting, there is always something else that we can improve, another donor to call, another report to read, another board member to email, another grant rejection notice to weep softly over as Boys II Men plays gently in the background (“Let’s don’t wait till the water runs dry…” It’s like they know us and our pain.)

Sometimes, when I hear my business friends complain about their 9-to-5, I just want to grab them by the collars of their shirts and yell, “You exquisite fool! I would trade my soul for a 9-to-5! Look at these empty, haunted eyes! These are the eyes of an exempt nonprofit staff! Is this what you want?!” Then I would slap them once or twice to drive the point home.

Anyway, since time is of the essence, I asked the Nonprofit With Balls Facebook Community for creative tips on how to save time during our day so that we can use even more minutes to make the world better. Or else go home before our partners break up with us and our children forget our faces. Here are the tips, in no order of importance or coherence; the ones in quotations are contributed by NWB readers. I hope that these suggestions are helpful. Please add yours to the comment section.

21 creative time-saving tips for busy nonprofit professionals

  1. Turn your cubicle into a lofticle and move in. Traveling to work will be a breeze, as you can just literally roll right off your bed and into the office.
  2. When microwaving your lunch, instead of hitting “1:30”, press “90.” That’s two buttons instead of three, saving you approximately one-third of a second each day. It adds ups.
  3. When submitting your grant application, preemptively include a gracious response to the inevitable rejection. Something like, “Attached, please find [your organization]’s application for the Catalytic Synergy grant. Thank you so much for your consideration; while we are disappointed to not receive an award, we really appreciate the review panel’s time, and hope to reapply in the future.”
  4. Put up an email auto-responder that says, “Due to the volume of emails I receive, I am now conducting all my work in person via office hours, which are Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 1pm to 3pm. Please sign up on my office door for 10-minute slots.”
  5. Have a personal uniform by buying five of the same outfit. Now you never have to waste time thinking about what to wear each day. Hint: an all-black uniform is not only time-saving, but also stylish, because remember, black is always the new black.
  6. “Wear Depends adult diapers.”
  7. Drink your coffee each night before going to bed, so that you don’t waste time doing it in the morning.
  8. Develop a terrible personality that will repel your coworkers. You will get a lot done when no one is talking to you or inviting you to lunch and walking breaks. Some of you have already mastered this tip; keep it up. 
  9. “Schedule meetings/work hours during times that minimize commute time.” Such as 6am. I find that there is little traffic at 6am. 
  10. “Do it all yourself! No one else does it correctly anyway.” Don’t even bother trying. Just do it yourself.
  11. “Don’t have kids. Don’t have a family.” They are all time leeches.
  12. “Toilet time is Twitter Time.” In fact, toilet time is perfect for all forms of social media.
  13. “For every ‘Why don’t you…’ suggestion, repeat the phrase, ‘That’s a great idea! I look forward to seeing your plan for how you’re going to complete that.’ Maybe tattoo it on your forehead.”
  14. “Resolve to answer at least one email each time you wake up in the middle of the night and can’t get back to sleep.”
  15. “Invent a story about why your homebase location is special and historic, then force colleagues to hold all meetings and events there.”
  16. Have a day designated each week where you and your team agree not to do something that would consume time. At my last organization, for example, we had “No Meeting Thursdays,” (a suggestion confirmed by a couple of NWB readers) and it was great. But I recommend assigning other days as well. Have them alliterate in order to sound cooler and be easier to remember. For examples, No-Meeting Mondays, No-Telephone Tuesdays, No-Wi-fi Wednesdays, No-Time-Off Thursday, and No-Food Friday.
  17. Move your desk into the janitorial closet to avoid distractions.
  18. After 15 minutes on a conference call, just hang up and punch yourself in the head. You will have the same amount of information and intensity of headache, but you just saved yourself 45 minutes.
  19. Pair up everyone into “Efficiency Buddies.” Efficiency Buddies are responsible for checking in with each other several times each day to ensure time is not being wasted.
  20. Cook up a huge batch of a calorie-dense meal, blend it all together, dehydrate, and cut into squares. Eat a square for lunch at your desk in the janitorial closet each day.
  21. Invent a time machine, go back in time, prevent Mark Zuckerberg’s parents from falling in love.

I hope those tips are helpful. For even more tips, please see the NWB Facebook page. Be on the lookout for a future post with advice for saving money or earning extra cash as nonprofit professionals. (Preview: “Bring wine stoppers to fundraising dinners. Consolidate leftover wine, plug them up, and voila, you have fancy blended vino to take home.”)

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