Fundraising Resolution No. 2: Get Organized

Last week, I began a series of articles on resolutions for 2014,beginning with “Get Fit.” That’s one of the most common resolutions that gets made (and broken?) each new year.

The second resolution that comes directly to you from the list of frequent resolutions made each year is “Get organized.” Ah — another great one for fundraisers!

After surviving the year-end pressure of mailings, e-mails, last-minute receipt of stock and other appreciated assets, sending out greeting cards, and attending the holiday party, “organized” sounds like a good plan — but also like more work than our cookie-filled minds may want to undertake. So here are a few ideas to help start 2014 off on a less cluttered note. And for the record, I am not nagging! Just sharing ideas that I’ve come up with to solve my own disorganization crises …

Banish the random bits of paper
For years, my inbox overflowed with pages torn out of magazines, vacation spots I just had to check out when I retire, business cards, fundraising ideas and facts worth remembering … you get the picture. Worse was my file of articles that dated back to the early 1980s — much of it still timely, but it was impossible to quickly find anything when I needed it. These were long before e-mail and PDFs, so electronically filing was going to require scanning (and that meant time).

While I assume there are many great ways to tackle the piles of paper, I have conquered my clutter with a free (love that word!) program called Evernote. It’s on my smartphone, my laptop and my tablet. When I see something worth saving, I snap a photo and store that in one of my Evernote folders with sensible names like “Work-related,” “Travel ideas” and “Business cards.” Then the paper itself gets recycled. Result? When I needed to find the “reasonable fundraising costs” thatJerry Panas provided months ago, it was right there in the “Work-related” folder with the subject line of “Reasonable FR Costs — Jerry Panas.” (OK, I never claimed to be creative in naming notes.)

If you’ve found a great tool to help you banish random bits of paper, share it in comments below. While the paperless office may not be coming to a desk near you in 2014, you can start now to get a handle on much of the paper that contains information that may be needed on another day.

Get rid of the samples that only serve as ‘bad examples’
I am a hoarder of only one thing: direct-mail samples. Just today, I received two more in the mail — both controls that I have received over and over again. Yet, I am tempted to file them in the appropriate box in the closet (“Environmental” and “Local Humanitarian”). I also have a few more e-mails that I received from nonprofits that I just might want to use in a class or webinar, or perhaps for inspiration, sometime in 2014.

Having access to great samples can be a tremendous help. But if you’re short of space or time to scan, check out Who’s Mailing What! I’m learning to love this tool because the work of scanning and saving is done for me, and the variety of samples is far more than I personally receive.

Another option is to keep the top 10 percent of samples you receive (but no duplicates), scan the next 10 percent to 15 percent and recycle the rest. While it takes a little longer to make the judgment call when the piece lands on your desk or in your inbox, you’ll save time in the long run by managing it now rather than setting it aside so it will need to be taken care of later in the year.

Keep your goals for 2014 where you see them daily

Having your goals front and center can keep you focused on activities that contribute to accomplishing those goals rather than chasing down rabbit trails that are interesting but aren’t truly advancing your fundraising program.

I frequently had quarterly reviews with my team just to go over goals and make sure everyone was still tracking on them. When no one did this accountability touchstone for me, I forced myself to review my goals and my progress every three months. Otherwise, annual review time came (or didn’t, on occasion), and I was no closer to accomplishing what I intended than I had been 12 months earlier.

Keeping focused on your goals can also help avoid committing to accomplishing the impossible. If you are looking at that goal every day for 365 days, you will quickly know if you have overcommitted. And it’s better to regroup sooner rather than later if it impacts your fundraising success (and career success, at times, as well).

Hopefully your year-end fundraising efforts are humming along well, and you have a time to catch your breath and reflect on all the great things you have made possible through your dedication to fundraising. Take it from this old dog — you’ve done great in 2013! And together, let’s resolve to make 2014 another exciting year for fundraising.

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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