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Monday, January 2, 2012

30 Days to a Better Fundraising Professional

This time of year there are all sorts of posts on fitness, health and diet sites touting 30-day plans to weigh less, be more fit, eat healthier, et cetera. So that got me thinking, why not 30-days for improving your fundraising program? So here's the plan for a "healthier" development professional.

Take an inventory
Stop for a moment, even if it's only ten minutes, and evaluate what went well with your fundraising strategies last year. Of the things that went well, can they be duplicated, or were they one-time successes? Then assess what didn't go as planned. What was under your control that you can correct, or should you just not try that again? Write down your observations and plans for replication or correction for this year.

Cultivate "Not-Yet-Donors" every day
Spend at least 10 minutes each day this month working on prospective donor relationships: sharing information with a prospective donor or learning more about them. This can be a personal note, a phone call, an email, a social media touch, or a real in-person, face to face meeting.

Thank a donor, volunteer or staff person every day
Remind people why they are involved with your organization by saying thank you. Take 5-10 minutes every day and reach out to someone who is important to your cause, whether it's a donor, volunteer or fellow staff person.

Research links with one new network
We all have those groups where we scratch our heads and say, "Why doesn't anyone from [fill-in-the-blank] donate to us?" Now's your chance to make the connection! Use tools like LinkedIn or local business directories to research who might be your "degree of separation" to a new donor. Bonus points if you actually make the connection this month!

Schedule Training
Just like you would sign up for an exercise class, sign up for at least one professional development activity to sharpen your fundraising skills. With the availability of webinars and other workshops, you can probably find several training opportunities. And/or, buy a new book on fundraising and commit to reading a little bit every day.

Set your milestones
Get a big calendar--I recommend a large wet-erase wall calendar with the full year visible--and mark major milestones for the year. When are your special events? When does that direct mail need to drop? What are your recurring grant deadlines? What are funding milestones, i.e., how much should you have raised by when? Giving yourself a visual of the year helps you plan where you are going to need to be protective of your time or need more help. Or it prepares you for when you'll be totally stressed out.

Schedule at least one ask
Akin to scheduling a race at the end of a training period, you need to give yourself a deadline! Take a look at your prospective donor list and pick at least one donor that you feel you can realistically ask for a gift by the end of the month. Then pick up the phone and schedule a time to meet. Really. Or, if you're more of a grant writer, select at least one foundation to which you will submit a proposal and block out the time to write it. (Notice, these are both written as "at least one." You are allowed and encouraged to do more than one.)

Results?
After 30 days, you should have established stronger relationships with some of your donors, cultivated a few prospective donors, know where you're going for the rest of the year, have at least one skill improved or new tool revealed, and have completed one ask. And, you may have established new habits for the coming months. But like all 30 day programs, the results are up to you! Good luck!

Inspirations:
Matt Cutts: Try Something New for 30 Days on Ted.com
Sparkpeople January Jumpstart on Sparkpeople.com

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