As I replaced all my 2015 calendars with shiny, new 2016 editions, I was thinking about what I need to do differently in the new year. While I am not much for making resolutions, this is a natural time to think about how I would like to be different one year from today.
Whether you view New Year’s resolutions as necessary or overhyped, here are a few things you can pick and choose from as you think about the impact 2016 will have on your career as a fundraiser:
I will stay relevant. Try new things (cautiously), and don’t discount the latest, shiny, new tactic without even looking at it.
I will not discard the old just because it’s boring. When a tactic is working to engage and retain your target audience, it’s not important if you like it or not. What matters is that it works. “It’s not about me” is the tough reality for every fundraiser.
I will admit to myself what I don’t know and deliberately learn how to do it. We all know that we can learn just about anything these days without ever leaving our computers. When you’re asked to do something outside your core competencies, view it as a challenge to expand your knowledge.
I will stop doing things that consume time but don’t raise money. This one is hard because it is often driven by someone higher than us on the organizational chart. But challenge yourself to build a case for why it isn’t the best use of resources (time and money). You may not win this time, but you have at least planted seeds for future change—and reinforced in your own mind what is the best strategy for raising funds. That knowledge may serve you well in the future.
If there are things that don’t raise money but I have to do because “politics” dictate it, I will look for ways to make them more efficient so as little time is wasted as possible. You didn’t win (above)? How can you minimize the time investment so the assignment has as little impact on your time as possible? Make figuring that out your challenge!
I will document our procedures. This can be seen as a huge time-waster—until you need a procedure and there is none. Set a goal to document one procedure a week, or if you have a team, work together to accomplish this. It’s a real gift to the organization, and if you move on, it’s a fantastic starting place when you are implementing new procedures elsewhere.
I will stop viewing my donors as nuisances. Donors are the reason we have jobs. And more importantly, donors are the reason so much good is being accomplished that otherwise may not happen. Donors are humans—and therefore fallible—but they are also the lifeblood of our organizations. They deserve to be treated in a way that reflects their value.
I will personally speak to at least one donor every workday. This could be a disgruntled donor, a drop-in donor or one you choose to call to personally thank. It’s too easy to get caught up in the “doing” of fundraising that we forget about the people behind the dollars. Talking to a donor can re-energize you, and the intelligence you collect can help you sharpen procedures or identify an area that needs to be better communicated to donors to help prevent confusion.
I will handwrite a thank-you note at least once a week. Yuck. I hate writing handwritten notes. And why bother in this day and age of computers? But taking just a few minutes to write a note sends a very different message than a computer-generated letter. Your penmanship may not be the best (trust me, my third-grade teacher would rap my knuckles with a ruler if she saw my latest effort), but when it comes to handwritten notes, it really is the thought that counts.
This old dog wishes you the very best in 2016. May we all have a year where we truly enjoy fundraising and feel the satisfaction that comes from knowing we did important work to the best of our abilities.
Originally published in NonProfit Pro.