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Last year I started to hang out with business owners, entrepreneurs and the would-be self-employed. And none of them worked in the charity sector. It was both scary and illuminating in equal measure at the start. We were both so very different and yet fundamentally the same, these people. From a non-profit/profit working base there will always be differences just as there are between those who deal in B2B in contrast to B2C businesses.

But there is much transferable knowledge too. One great tool I came across was from someone who had been using a business coach from the Shirlaws Group. He talked about Red, Blue and Black time.

Red is admin time – this is the sometimes-essential stuff that keeps the cogs turning but definitely doesn’t get you closer to your donors. It is also the organisation stuff you can get sucked into.

Blue is what you are really paid for: donor time. Not just the time you spend with them but all the work you do in preparation so think research and proposal writing too.

Black is future time – the time you spend on your future years plans and strategies. It is also the time you spend working our how best to minimise Red time and maximise blue time and the time you invest in keeping up to date with changes in regulations, improving your skills etc.

The time split between Blue and Black will depend on where you are in your fundraising growth cycle.

What can you do with this information?

Hopefully it is obvious that Red time should be streamlined so that you spent most of your time elsewhere.

You should already be filling your diary with activities each day and so why not colour them to see what proportions you are managing between R B and B. This will show you where you’re going wrong if you feel there are never enough hours in the day. You can then use this visual aid with your boss to discuss how to reduce the Red and whether to use that time on Blue or Black.

UPDATE: In a more recent blog I’ve shared my calendar planning – zero-based-calendar – which really works well alongside the RBB tool.