10 Steps for a Midyear Professional Fundraising Checkup
“The future is something which everyone reaches at the rate of 60 minutes an hour, whatever he does, whoever he is.” — C. S. Lewis
Admittedly, this quote has increasing relevance as we age. And time truly does fly. It is midway through 2016. In a few short months we will enter the holiday season.
Most of us are either halfway through a fiscal year or just beginning a new one. In either case, it is time to take professional stock of where you are and where you are going. One of my favorite quotes is by Leonard Bernstein: “To achieve great things, two things are needed: a plan, and not quite enough time.”
Last week, we discussed steps for a midyear personal checkup. This time, let's talk about the 10 steps for a professional nonprofit fundraising checkup:
1. Review your plans. Pull out your fundraising plans, and if you are in a major campaign be sure to include the plan for that as well. Review and update them. Involve key leaders and share/explain the update as needed.
2. Develop plans. If you do not have appropriate plans, develop them. Without a formal plan, your fundraising operation is like a ship without a rudder. Make it appropriate to your organization’s situation. Secure help to develop one if needed. There are always benefits from an outside perspective and increased accountability, as well as the buy-in that a professional process can attain.
3. Review or create a dashboard. If you don't have a dashboard of key indicators that you look at each week, create one. It should include gifts secured (by giving levels), numbers of volunteers and staff engaged in solicitations, and the number of donor visits and solicitations.
4. Reach out. We are all busy, and sometimes communications and understanding can suffer. Two departments that fundraising professionals are particularly dependent on are finances and programs (whatever that means for your organization). Reach out to your colleagues in those functions and visit with them. Enhance your professional relationships and ask if they have any questions about the fundraising operations.
5. Ask for feedback. Whether it is a CEO, board chair or department head, the reality is that some of us are terrible at feedback. Sometimes, performance reviews can be cryptic and offer little real insight. Don’t wait for an annual review. Plan an opportunity now—and several more throughout the year—to solicit feedback on your performance.
6. Build your team. What are you doing to develop communications and team spirit among those you work with? Regardless of your official title, reach out, build relationships and, as above, ask for feedback.
7. Benchmark steps with your top prospective donors. Benchmark your donor portfolio—when did you see each donor last, what is your planned next step and what is your goal for this year? Set aside a few hours today or tomorrow to be sure that you have a connection with each.
8. Know who you depend on. Who, besides your donors, your team, colleagues in the finance and program area, and your supervisor do you depend on to be successful? Would you include board members and other volunteers? Make a list and a plan to reach out to these folks in the next month.
9. Review your budget. Income and expense—where are you and what adjustments do you need to make now?
10. Get feedback on your communications. How articulate are you in sharing your story and in asking for gifts? Get away and, if appropriate, bring some key team members with you. Ask for feedback from donors or volunteers. Consider retaining a professional. Refine your messages and how you share them.
What are your suggestions for professional benchmarking and planning here in July? I would enjoy reading what you'd add to a professional fundraising checkup!
Looking for Jeff? You'll find him either on the lake, laughing with good friends, or helping nonprofits develop to their full potential.
Jeff believes that successful fundraising is built on a bedrock of relevant, consistent messaging; sound practices; the nurturing of relationships; and impeccable stewardship. And that organizations that adhere to those standards serve as beacons to others that aspire to them. The Bedrocks & Beacons blog will provide strategic information to help nonprofits be both.
Jeff has more than 25 years of nonprofit leadership experience and is a member of the NonProfit PRO Editorial Advisory Board.