Documentation: Do or Die — Just Do It!
Fundraisers have an exciting job — hosting gala dinners at swanky hotels, taking major donors golfing, traveling to obscure locations to visit potential funders … But there’s one thing that isn’t often mentioned in a list of fundraising tasks, yet if you fail to do it, all your accomplishments in your tenure will be forgotten and your name will be cursed once you have moved on.
Recently, I have been reminded of that more than once as I've seen the results of a lack of documentation. The only fundraising employee at a small nonprofit who left without telling anyone the password for the organization’s email manager. (Hard to send out an e-appeal without it.) The head of a department at a midsized nonprofit who, after several years on the job, left absolutely no documentation so everything that needed to be done had to be reinvented. The nonprofit that almost missed an important deadline because no one left information about it.
Alas, no one is going to be named “Fundraiser of the Year” for leaving behind great documentation. But I guarantee you that you will be remembered — in a very unkind light — if you fail at this most basic of tasks.
Having once led a team to document more than 120 procedures in advance of the nonprofit moving cross-country (and the fundraising employees not moving with it), I learned a few secrets about making the job less painful and, occasionally, even fun. So, if you are documentation-challenged, this one’s for you …
Don’t try to do it all at once
If possible, write up the documentation as you go along. If that train has already left the station, do a little bit every day. It is helpful to make a list of what needs documenting so you can see the finish line, albeit far in the distance. Let’s be honest — creative people who are fundraisers aren’t going to salivate over “creating” documentation. So make it easier on yourself and be systematic but not fanatical.
Pamela Barden is an independent fundraising consultant focused on direct response. You can read more of her fundraising columns here.