According to an idiom, all good things must (come to an) end. In reality everything begins and ends. That is the way of the world and the life of a fundraising professional. Everyone works in a fiscal year. For some, the fiscal year is a calendar year from January to December. Others work in a federal government fiscal year, which is October 1 to September 30. Still, others work in a fiscal year from July 1 to June 30 of any given year.
Regardless of the fiscal year, summer seems to be a transition time for many—time to work feverishly to achieve fiscal-year financial targets while creating an organizational and operational plan for the next fiscal year. Many of us start putting on the brakes to a hectic year and begin the brief process of trying to finally take time off. (I have not taken one day off this calendar year or played a round of golf. Shame on me.)
I look at summer from a child’s eyes. Remember the excitement of the last day of school? You did not pay attention to anything. You felt entitled to goof off during that day of packing. When you walked out of school at the end of the day, you expressed a feeling of joy that you accomplished a year of hard work. You also wanted to run home and start playing for the summer. You had a temporary moment of relief. It felt great.
Do you have the same feeling when you reach the end of a fiscal year? You hopefully made goal and can get a brief rest. Sadly, the scoreboard goes to zero and the grind begins anew. How do you prepare for the transition of June or the transition of your fiscal year?
Here are a few tips for you to think about during this time:
1. Take some time off to recharge your batteries. You earned the time, and need the mental and physical rest. Turn off the work phone and work computer. The work will be there when you return. You need to have a renewed energy level and attitude to start the engines rolling on the next fiscal year.
2. Evaluate the past fiscal year from every angle. In addition to funds raised, did you achieve management goals, key to-do list features and one-year objectives? Do a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) analysis. What can you improve on in the next fiscal year?
3. Place your old fiscal year files in the archives and freshen up your filing systems. I make changes so my organizational materials for the next fiscal year are in place and ready to go.
4. Did you evaluate your staff properly? Do you need to make staff changes during this downtime?
5. Evaluate your volunteer committees. Many organizational board and volunteer leadership changes take place as the new fiscal year begins. Do you have new leadership in place that can raise the bar for your organization?
6. Do you have the new operational plan ready for the next fiscal year with adjustments based upon the fiscal year just finished?
7. Is your next fiscal year activity calendar printed and ready to be utilized?
8. If your financial goal is increasing, do you have the prospect-base identified to make success possible?
9. Have you determined what you will do on a personal basis in the next fiscal year—classes to take, volunteer organizations to serve, etc.?
10. Have you had a thorough discussion and performance review with your boss to learn exactly what is expected of you, so there are no gray areas or fears of the unknown?
The transition in June makes you crazy as you speed up and slow down. In reality, senior pros never truly slow down, but they do change some of the many hats they are wearing. Take some time during the summer months to contact peers on a face-to-face basis in order to renew friendships and share war stories. Use the June, July and August period to attend the long-awaited conference and take that much-needed class. If possible, do something that you have not done before that is on your bucket list.
You may not remember your best fiscal work year, but you will remember something fun that you accomplished. If you have family, take time to be with them. We take our family for granted in the nonprofit business. Your family assumes you will be gone at night, weekends and holidays. Do something special during the summer to thank them for their support. I also suggest that you visit with old retired colleagues. They will appreciate it more than you will ever know.
In summary, understand that most months of the year are spent grinding and doing many of the same processes over and over with no major change. As you hit summer—just like the student leaving the classroom for break—activities will be different. Prepare for the transition and understand that all things, good and bad, will come to an end. Before you know it, the new fiscal year is upon you. As the Boy Scout motto states: “Be prepared”—and enjoy the ride.
Duke has extensive experience as a nonprofit practitioner, author, lecturer and consultant. He has been a contributing author to NonProfit PRO for the last 11 years. He has been a long-standing member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals where he was previously named the AFP Indiana Chapter Fundraising Executive of the Year and has held the CFRE designation for many years.
He received his doctorate degree from West Virginia University with an emphasis in education administration, master's degree from Marshall University with an emphasis in public administration and a bachelor's degree from West Virginia University with an emphasis in marketing/management. He has also completed post graduate work at the University of Louisville.
He is currently executive director of development for The Salvation Army Indiana Division in Indianapolis, Indiana. Contact Duke at email@example.com or 317-224-1029.