Fundraising Resolution No. 1: Get Fit

‘Tis the season for articles listing the top five or 10 resolutions for the New Year. For some, these self-commitments can be very important; for others, they are simply a way to prolong the guilt of the holiday season into the first few weeks of January.

But in a totally guilt-free environment, for the new few weeks I’ll be suggesting ways to turn good fundraising resolutions for the New Year into income and more committed donors throughout the next 12 months.

One of the top resolutions every year is “get fit.” Visits at the health club increase (until about mid-February); diets are observed for a time; and efforts to get more sleep, exercise and downtime to de-stress are launched. While these are good personal aims, our fundraising programs need some attention to get (or stay) fit, as well:

Cut out the fat
Let’s face it — most fundraising programs have some aspects that aren’t really useful or all that appreciated by the donors. But someone with clout loves them. Words like “endearing,” “beloved” and even “anticipated” are used to describe these activities. Yet, they seem to mainly sap time and result in less net income than other activities.

Resolve in 2014 to take on these programs and trim them from the budget if you can. For example:

  1. Suggest a way to revamp the “fat” and turn around the less-than-stellar results.
  2. Propose a replacement that will bring in more net income and re-energize a portion of your donor file that has been lethargic in recent years.
  3. Challenge the proponents of the “fat” to find ways to make it meet minimum net income goals of $XXXXX; support them, but let them be the owners so they feel more responsibility for outcomes.
  4. Take a deep breath and just take it out of the budget — after preparing ammunition to defend your decision.

Watch your vital signs
Every fundraiser needs to keep a sharp eye on key life-sustaining numbers: growth of the donor file, lapsed reactivation, second-gift conversion, net income of every activity, donor upgrading, average gift — to mention just a few.

No matter how busy you are, never let a month go by without reviewing the reports to see how your overall fundraising health is. Problems can creep in, and by the time a quarter has gone by, the situation can be close to a crisis.

Think of yourself as Hans Brinker — every day, come in and look for the little leaks that can turn into deluges. The best time to plug these leaks is when they are small, not when you are frantically trying to paddle upstream simply to survive.

Get more exercise
For fundraisers, exercise that pays off has a lot to do with getting away from the computer screen and talking to donors. Take donor calls for a few hours, and find out what they are complaining about. Call a few donors just to thank them for their gifts, and ask them what it is about your programs that really excites them.

Readers with small organizations may be shaking their heads and saying, “What do you think I do all day?!” At larger organizations, though, when there are multiple fundraisers with specific duties, it can be easy to lose sight of the donors if our focus is on the mailing list or e-mail file or planning an event, for example. Whatever your position, resolve to enjoy your donors more in 2014 — after all, laughing together with a donor is great exercise.

Get some rest

Fundraising is hard work. There’s always a new idea to pursue; a new method to get up to speed on; a new opportunity that needs a letter, an e-mail, a Web page or something else to communicate it to our supporters.

So resolve to take care of yourself in 2014, too. Something will probably be left undone — but that’s usually true, no matter how hard or long you work. Take a breather and rekindle your enthusiasm for fundraising. Yes, it’s a job — but hopefully it’s a joy, too.

This old dog hasn’t made my New Year’s resolutions yet, but I assure you they will include “keeping the FUN in fundraising!” How about you?

Originally published in NonProfit Pro.

Author: PJBarden

With a professional career in strategic fundraising that spans more than 35 years, Pamela brings a wealth of experience and knowledge to working with nonprofit organizations. She specializes in writing fundraising copy, grant proposals, P.R. materials, instructional articles and blog entries, as well as developing and executing fundraising strategy for her clients. Pamela is a Certified Fundraising Executive (CFRE); an instructor for UCLA Extension School’s Fundraising Certification Program and the University of La Verne, College of Business and Public Management; a frequent webinar speaker; and author of two online courses for UCLA Extension. Pamela earned a Doctorate of Business Administration in 2015; her doctoral project (dissertation) was entitled “Nonprofit Organizations’ Awareness of and Preparation for Legislation, Regulation, and Increasing Scrutiny.” She is a past winner of a Gold Award for Fundraising Excellence and an ECHO Award from DMA; recipient of a Distinguished Instructors Award from UCLA Extension; a weekly columnist for NonprofitPRO (formerly Fundraising Success); and a monthly contributor to Blackbaud’s blog, npEngage.

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