4 Ways to Make the Most of the Fundraising Dog Days of December

Sometime this month, you’re going to experience the bliss that all fundraisers long for — those few days when you can’t do any more to impact 2014 income except hope and pray, and no one else is around with whom to brainstorm 2015 plans. We don’t get those “dog days” very often, so it’s easy to squander them away. But here are a few ideas to make the most of them, if you’re so inclined.

1. First, review your goals.
They may not have seen the light of day since your last review, or you may try to focus on them on a regular basis. Whichever it is (or somewhere in between), pull them out and look them over. Where have you excelled? Yea! Give yourself a round of applause.
What about those that are worthy but haven’t yet been accomplished? Decide which one or two to focus on in the coming weeks, and sketch out a plan for making them move from goals to reality.

Goals aren’t the “be all and end all” of a fundraiser’s life. But if you have thoughtful goals, they can help you grow in your job, and help your organization grow, as well. If the list you’re reviewing seems out of touch with reality, consider now how you can change that at your next review. Or, if you don’t get a regular review, revise your goals for your own benefit and recommit to them.

2. Say thank you to those who helped you accomplish so much in 2014
The database person who regularly provides the reports and mailing lists, even when you’re late with the request. The accounting team member who helps you identify what needs funding and avoid over-funding another project. The people who stayed late or skipped lunch to help stuff an emergency mailing.

And don’t forget the printer who juggled some numbers to stay in your budget, or the mailer who moved you to the front of the line once or twice. The online designer who gave you “Cadillac work” on a “Chevy budget.” The writer who provided 11 versions so you could accommodate all the segmentations your executive director wanted. And the others who only you are aware of but who made success possible.

Yes, all these people are paid for their work. But sometimes, people go beyond the paycheck just because they want you to have the best. Now is a good time to say thanks. You can’t promise it will never happen again, but you can make sure they know they are appreciated. If nothing else, think of it as insurance for the next crisis; it’s human nature for most of us to bend over backwards to help, especially if we know it’s truly appreciated.

3. Decide what you’ll learn in 2015
It’s a cliché, I know, but when you stop learning, you really may as well just stop. Becoming stagnant is not only a disservice to your profession, but it’s also a huge disservice to you. You deserve to learn, to expand your talents, and yes, to try and fail.
So choose one thing you want to learn. Commit to going outside your comfort zone. Write it down and put it where you — and only you — will see it, be reminded of your intention and get motivated to make it happen. This time next year, you’ll be glad you did.

4. Make your own year-end gifts
Fundraisers need to be donors, including to their own employer. If you don’t feel they are worthy of a contribution, you shouldn’t be working there. Selfishly, you can learn a lot by seeing how other organizations treat you and how they communicate.

More importantly, being a donor makes what you say to other donors more genuine. You can talk about choosing to give out of your own experience of making that choice. I know I’m meddling, but I believe it: Fundraisers must be donors to the causes they work for, and to other causes they believe in.

Here’s to a few quiet days before we plunge headlong into the events, mailings, website revisions, online campaigns, planned-giving proposals, capital campaigns, personal visits and all the other things that will fill our lives as fundraisers in 2015. This old dog is hoping for a few relaxing days, and I wish the same to 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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