Documentation: Do or Die — Just Do It!
The system my team learned worked best was for the person who actually did the job to write it up and another person who didn’t do the job to walk through doing it using only the documentation. Any gaps quickly surface, and terms “everyone” knows (but in reality, they don’t) are quickly identified. And, people get to learn about new things and maybe gain a skill that can be beneficial to the organization in the future. If you are a one-man show, at a minimum try to write the documentation and then review it days or weeks later to see if you missed anything.
Keep a copy
You never know when you may be asked, “What’s the best way to do X?” or “When doing Y, should I … ?” And yes, I did get a call 11 years after the fact in one case, asking me if by any chance I still had a copy of the documentation. Unfortunately, it had gone AWOL between the two moves and job changes in those 11 years. But frankly, I still miss it. There was a lot there I could reuse now — if I only had the documentation.
I once worked for a boss who often asked, “What would happen to [name a program] if you were hit by a bus on your way home tonight?” Now, his deep concern wasn’t about the safety record of the Chicago Transit Authority (or most likely, about me, either), but it had to do with wanting to know if the fundraising programs would still function without my hand on the throttle, so to speak. In other words, was I documenting things?
At a certain point in life, we start thinking about our “legacy” — will I be remembered anywhere for all the work I did to raise funds for the cause? This old dog knows it isn’t award-winning kind of stuff, but at least I should be remembered in a positive light because I left behind documentation that let others carry on my work if they chose to do so.
Pamela consults with nonprofits, helping them develop their fundraising strategy and writing copy to achieve their goals. Additionally, she teaches fundraising at two universities, hoping to inspire the next generation of fundraisers to be passionate about the profession. Previously, Pamela led the fundraising programs for nonprofit organizations. Pamela is a member of the Advisory Panel for Rogare, the fundraising think tank at Plymouth University’s Hartsook Centre for Sustainable Philanthropy, a CFRE, a graduate of Wheaton College (IL) and Dominican University, and holds a Doctorate in Business Administration from California Southern University. Contact Pamela at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter at @pjbarden.