Time for Spring Cleanup!

Most of us in the U.S. have survived the annual “spring ahead,” when we lose an hour of our lives — or actually just bank it to collect again come fall — but seemingly drag around for days as a result of this annual ritual.

But it is one sign, at least, that spring is coming. Some of you still “shoveling your climate,” as a former boss used to say, may not be quite as convinced as I am of the truth of that claim, but deep down (maybe under a pile of snow that’s been in the front yard since 2013), you know it’s true.

One of the rituals of spring has long been spring cleaning. In fact, growing up in Chicago and attending the Chicago Public Schools, we had a week off every April that was called “Clean Up Week.” Granted, most of us used it to go someplace where sunshine really existed, but the thought was there.

As fundraisers, now is a good time to do some spring cleanup. We’re right smack in the middle of the year-end surge and the summer slump. Our creativity may be buried in slush, and our passion seems to be coated in ice. So roll up your sleeves, and let’s get cleaning!

All those direct-mail packages, e-news ideas, event promotional pieces, donor-recognition advertisements — in short, the things that you set aside to inspire you on a day when your creativity is at an all-time low — need to be sorted and purged.

The best part about intentionally going through them is you’ll retrieve some ideas that have been buried and possibly ignite some great ideas for your next fundraising project. But don’t hesitate to toss or recycle anything that doesn’t look quite as exciting as it did back when you set it aside.

Bottom line: Keep the examples that inspire; eliminate the ones that are simply clutter.


Is there something that you have been doing over and over again that is still good — but not great? Maybe it’s time for change.

That doesn’t always mean tossing out the old (but it may). You may simply need to freshen up a masthead, clean up a website or change up an event to infuse some surprise for your donors.

Bottom line: It’s always a risk to change something. But it’s also a risk to do nothing while results decline year after year.

Look for new ways to tell your story. Pick up a camera, and shoot dozens of pictures to find the three or four that will make your programs come alive for your donors. Talk to some of the people who benefit from your programs, and get some great quotes that can be fodder for future mail or conversations with donors.

I don’t know about you, but I always have a list of things (some only mentally) that I want to work on “someday.” It may be learning a new fundraising skill or taking a look at some data to try and find the key to solving a challenge in the donor file. Review the list, and choose one thing. Then come up with a plan, and get started on it.

Bottom line: Sometimes our passion for our work, like a campfire, needs a little help to keep burning brightly.

Have you taken time to celebrate the great year-end your nonprofit organization had? I don’t know what it’s like in your shop, but I always feel like fundraising is a bit like a treadmill; it never stops, and the only way off is to crash.

As part of your spring cleaning, look back at the last six or 12 months and smile, cheer, celebrate what you did that was good. As fundraisers, we keep our focus on the donors and the programs they make possible. But that finely tuned machine wouldn’t happen without you.

Bottom line: Take time to appreciate the difference because of the work you (and your fundraising team, if that’s the case) have accomplished.

This old dog assures those of you living in the Snow Belt (which seems to have expanded significantly this year) that spring is coming. So roll up your sleeves and de-clutter, refresh, refocus and applaud. That’s the best way to make room for the fantastic fundraising you’ll accomplish in the months ahead.

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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