What will you do with 15 minutes today?

What will you do with 15 minutes today?

Think about this scenario: You’re at the office, and it’s 11:30 in the morning. You have a lunch appointment for which you’ll need to leave in 15 minutes. Not enough time to start something new, but too much time to waste. What will you do?

About a month ago I ran across an internet blog/ad that listed ten things you could do with ten minutes. Frankly I found it rather lame – three of the suggestions involved contacting donors and one other suggested going to the blog website to learn about products they’re selling.

But the concept did get me thinking…. I increased the time to 15 minutes (just to make it different!) and started making my own list. Here’s what I have so far….

What can you do with 15 minutes?

  1. Go back and reread your notes from Rally last year. (This suggestion works equally well for any conference or webinar you attended.)
  2. Mind-map or outline that letter/report/article you have been putting off writing.
  3. Contact a donor: send a thank-you letter, birthday card, personalized event invitation, or good news communication.
  4. Contact a board member: send a thank-you letter, birthday card, personalized event invitation, or good news communication that they can pass on.
  5. Contact a volunteer: send a thank-you letter, birthday card, personalized event invitation, or good news communication.
  6. Reduce your filing stack by 15 minutes.
  7. Make a task list to be done in the next six weeks. Consult a calendar to see what’s coming. Focus on the most important things that aren’t and won’t be urgent.
  8. Pick up and scan/read the Chronicle of Philanthropy or any other professional periodical that you won’t find time to read otherwise.
  9. Listen to Abbott and Costello’s Who’s on First routine (because everyone needs a good laugh).
  10. Visit the Learning Center at LTA and read through the current “Ask the Expert” conversations.
  11. Close your door and stretch.
  12. Pretend you are a donor, interested in a particular program or project. Go to your website and see how easy it is (or isn’t) to find out information.
  13. Check out your own organizational social media – see what’s going on.
  14. Go online and become a member of your own organization or join another land trust. Document the experience.
  15. Set a date for the fall appeal to go out. Back out a workplan that will get you there without unnecessary stress. Consider writing the letter tomorrow afternoon (when you have more than 15 minutes to devote to the task).
  16. Log into your donor database and make notes on your most recent donor interactions.
  17. Go through last week’s email and delete every message you can.
  18. Make a call list for the afternoon – include phone numbers.
  19. Scan your top donor list and consider anyone you haven’t connected with recently. Make a plan for correcting that situation.
  20. Visit a foundation website from which you hope to get a grant in the near future. Review their grant application guidelines and calendar their due dates.

What would YOU do with 15 minutes? Please help me by adding your ideas!




PS: Once more the disclaimer that I will dig your comments out of spam as fast as I can, but I still haven’t figured out how to keep them from going directly there. Please bear with me.


Photo credit: Stalking Bobcat by Walt Kaesler.

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Fundraiser’s Almanac
Here’s what I’ve been thinking about for July. What are YOU thinking about?


Planning My Fall Appeal – If you followed my advice back in February, you will have a draft of your Fall Appeal letter already written. The draft will use what you learned from last year’s appeal as well as your current year’s communications theme. There is no reason not to pull that letter out now, create several versions to meet the needs of your segmented donor file, and PRINT THEM ALL NOW. Print the letters with a September date, fold and stuff them, seal them and put stamps on. Then put them in a box on a shelf with the drop date written on the outside. One less chore for the fall! – which will make time for major gift prospects visits.


Getting Ready for Fall Foundation Deadlines – Board members can play an important role in supporting the business of writing foundation proposals. July is a great time to organize that support, and it all starts with systematically finding out who they know. Last year’s post listed the steps necessary to organize that process. It included this:


Evaluating My Fundraising Year So Far – Given what you know right now, where will you be at year’s end? Go ahead – stick your neck out and take a WAG. Will you make your fundraising goals? Here’s the question: “Given what I know right now about what foundations have committed and what grant requests are still out there, and what I know right now about membership, major gift requests, corporate fundraising, and so on, can I still project getting to my fundraising goal for the year?” July is really the first time that you have enough information to attempt this exercise. Forewarned is forearmed. If trying to forecast now means that you avoid a head-on collision in December and January, your effort will be worthwhile


Getting Ready to Talk to My Mailhouse – July is a good time to go have a meeting with your mailhouse. Take a copy of the letter you prepared earlier to show (and weigh!) and talk to them about list segmentation, timing, and copy deadlines.

Share this!
  • Anita O'Gara
    Posted at 09:00h, 12 July

    I like to water my plants – slowly – while paying attention to where my tension is right now. Most likely it’s the need to attack that letter/report/article that I’ve been putting off (which you mentioned!) or the need to contact that one person who’s lingering in the back of my mind. Five minutes of plant watering and listening leaves me 10 minutes to do the concrete thing on your list that gets to what’s haunting me under the surface. Fifteen minutes to feeling better!

  • Renee' Carey
    Posted at 06:51h, 12 July

    I am planning on printing this out and hanging it at my desk so when I have 10 to 15 minutes I don’t have to think about what to do, I can just look at your list and pick 1 because they are all great ideas, but not things I always think about.

  • Trish Aldrich
    Posted at 06:15h, 12 July

    Get out of my office, invite colleagues to join me, take loop trail from the office, past rain gardens to the dock, up the hill and back to the office.Refreshing, connect with the river (that’s what we’re all about!), more oxygen to the brain, and fun with colleagues all in 10 minutes!

    • David Allen
      Posted at 07:54h, 12 July

      Great addition Trish. I forget that some are fortunate enough to be able to walk outside their office onto a nature trail. Others of us are not so lucky.


  • C.M. Dargitz
    Posted at 05:23h, 12 July

    Hi David! How about taking a walk in Nature? I read an article recently that said that walking in nature increases creativity, and we all know about the health benefits!

    Thank you for sharing your ideas with us every week!