2 min Read
October 12, 2012

Communications poking holes in your money-time continuum?

Big Duck

Time is money. It’s a cliché we’ve all heard and understand. But in the nonprofit world, the relationship between time and money is not always so straightforward. You might have volunteers and other non-monetary resources available to you, and your hard work translates into a gradually better world — a tricky thing to quantify on an hourly basis.

Here at Big Duck, we track our time on every work-related task we complete (down to the second, if you’re one of our meticulous project managers) mostly because it’s the best way to know how much to bill for the communications work we do.

Coming from working in communications and development at a small nonprofit (that was often pressed for both time and money), converting to the magical world of time tracking was a bit of a paradigm shift when I started at Big Duck. Before, pausing to record the fact that I spent 17 minutes unsubscribing people from the mailing list might have seemed like an impractical chore.

But if you commit to tracking your time consistently, you’ll end up with some pretty telling data about where your time is being spent—and where it might make sense to reallocate it—at the end of the year. When it comes to your communications, the ability to smartly allocate your precious time (instead of spending it jumping over hurdles like inconsistency or lack of a communications strategy) can ultimately have an impact on how effectively you achieve your mission.

For example, are you reinventing the wheel every time you email your list because you haven’t agreed on your key messages or trained your team on using them correctly? Are you investing enough time into making sure people at all levels of your organization (from interns to the board chair) know how to use your elevator pitch and other elements of your messaging platform consistently? If you have in-house designers or writers, is it easy for them to use your logo and color palette or organizational positioning, or are they often creating materials from scratch or with vague strategy? Do your external materials, like public-facing vision, mission and values statements, change depending on your audience or who’s writing about them?

Tracking your time could yield an indication of how effectively and efficiently your communications efforts are stacking up. In fact, when I talk to prospective clients, a common woe often comes up: when your communications machine is broken, rusty, or inconsistent and you’re developing written or visual materials without some sort of foundation, everything winds up taking longer than it should.

I’m looking forward to nerding out in just a few months when January rolls around on how my time’s been spent this year and thinking about how I might shift things around next year to accomplish more.

Where is your organization on the money-time continuum? Do you track your time, and have you used the data to identify strengths and weaknesses in your communications efforts? Let us know in the comments!