Share your experience. Are you Efficient or Effective?

by Marcy Heim on February 23, 2022

Automate, set up systems, create distribution lists, batch, group like tasks – in other words – be efficient! Make the most of your ever-so-limited time. And certainly we have more tools, and a wider acceptance for using them, than ever before.

But what if all that efficiency isn’t leading to the best result?

What if it’s not as effective?

The difference between effectiveness and efficiency can be summed up sweetly and succinctly – Being effective is about doing the right things, while being efficient is about doing things right.

Approach your days..


Let me jump right in with some examples from folks I’m working with right now….

  • An e-blast is sent out to thank all donors. It’s got a catchy and powerful story and a good photo. Even though it says, “Dear Joan” you know it’s too many.  While this is efficient – it is far more effective to personalize the email to at least your major givers. You can repeat some of the content. The impact will be considerably greater for the time you spend in personalization. 
Young Life conference 2022
  • Several people in a shop want to attend a conference together and were told it is more efficient for one person to attend and bring the content back. Actually, the investment for several folks to attend together is more effective.  They can attend multiple sessions, the time together strengthens staff bonds, and they can brainstorm on implementing the conference tips and tools on the spot. Often there is even a price break for 3 or more.
  • A new advancement council composed of past board members launched in early 2020 (followed by covid) and is set to meet in-person now after a couple of zoom meetings that were mostly reports. Instead of having the admin send out a group email (efficient) I ask the development officer to send out a personalized email to each member sharing she would call to hear their thoughts and see if they wanted to attend in person or zoom.  This was 45 calls – hardly efficient, but SO much more effective in providing an easy conversation for her with key prospective givers about their thoughts on the council and the upcoming campaign.
  • A major donor who had always been delighted to meet in person had grown quite zoom savvy over the pandemic so the development officer felt it would be fine to continue this. It would save her an hour drive each way.  In fact, the donor shifted her giving to another organization that continued to meet with her in person citing she felt “closer to that mission.” It’s always about your donor – not you.
  • Org X doubled the size of their holiday greeting to include more givers and community friends this past holiday. Three folks hand signed each card and included messages on many. Several additional year-end gifts were presented from this – 5 times paying for the extra costs. 
  • Events of several hundred may return – I ask, “Why?” Donors can attend and never talk to another soul in the masses. Efficient? Maybe.  Effective? No. Micro-events is where it’s at!
  • The spouse of a major donor passed (heart attack) and the funeral was both in person and on zoom. I was pretty clear on this one. Show up.
  • A new call program would deliver a message to multiple numbers saving the board from making those thank you calls.  It would also save the staff the set up with the board.  While this sounds good – it’s a big miss in bringing the board together with givers – even if they just leave a message. Expressing their gratitude out loud fuses them with your mission, their service and their own giving.
  • A long-time development officer found during the pandemic that several of her key donors were now very comfortable with text messages. For Valentine’s Day she used the message, “Roses are red, violets are blue. OrgX is thriving, because of you.” While she copied/pasted, each message was sent out individually. It was a massive hit and she got warm and wonderful return messages. 
Maya Angelou... I've learned

You may find yourself drawn to efficient options because they are convenient, save you from some heavy lifting and perhaps cost less.  Plus, you only have 24 hours in the day and need to make choices on how to spend your time. However, when you are looking to enhance your MAJOR GIVING success – how you treat your donors is crucial. 

While the words effective and efficient both mean “capable of producing a result,” there is an important difference. Effective means “producing a result that is wanted”. Efficient means “capable of producing desired results without wasting materials, time, or energy.” Being efficient to produce short-term or lackluster results is not the goal. Yet, also understand – the perfectionists among us – that there is such a thing as, “good enough.” At times getting out a batch thank you email is the best choice.

You are smart and capable. Take a few minutes to think through your actions and ask what will provide an opportunity to have a deeper connection, a personal conversation or make someone feel special.  You can be effective AND efficient!

What you do is special and how you feel is important to me.  Here is a bit of a worksheet – share with me something you have done to be effective – even though it maybe wasn’t as efficient.  This will make me feel like we are healing from this isolation and reconnecting. 

Shine on! Even on cloudy days.

Invest in JOY®

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