We’ve passed the first quarter of the year. Chances are things are getting busy for you now. Maybe a spring event you’re planning. A spring appeal mailing. A big annual meeting.
This is when it’s easy to forget your plan and focus on the daily to-do list
Who could blame you? You’ve got more than enough things to do. The list is several pages long, and everything needs to be done yesterday. If you take your eye off the “now” ball, you might lose your rhythm entirely, right?
Oh, been there, done that!
One of the joys for me of annual giving programs is the constant feedback. Getting something else out the door, so that you can see how it works. It can become addictive. Grantwriters might wait months to hear. Major Gift officers might carefully develop relationships over years, even.
When you focus on annual giving you don’t have to be so patient. Or do you?
Let me argue for taking the time to refocus on your plan. Or to make a plan, if you’ve really been winging it.
Do you remember learning how to drive?
Early on, I had to learn not to look right in front of me. To steer straight, you have to look ahead – past the car in front of you, at the cars in front of that. Looking only at what was in front of me, it was very easy to start drifting into traffic or off the road. Dangerous, right?
Same thing with your program. At least every few months, take the time to measure your progress against your plan. Are you where you thought you’d be? Have you done what you expected to do by now? Are you ready to do what you planned to do next?
“I know my numbers!” you think. And that’s good. Not measuring – daily – is a great way to find yourself in a ditch at the end of the year.
(I know you might find yourself there despite your best efforts. But believe me, your boss will want to know that ahead of time from you. Don’t let your executive director tell the board things are dandy two months before the end of the year if they’re not!)
Your daily feedback loop is inspiring. Response rates, acquisition rates, average gifts… all those metrics help you see where things are.
But you also need to look where you’re going.
Are you getting things done?
If you planned to have two mailings and an email series out by May, are they done or ready to go? If you need a new recognition list for the July report, are you working on that now? Did you rewrite that thank you letter? How about that welcome package for new donors?
Are you looking into the future?
How about donor retention? You may be tracking it with other short-term metrics (I hope you are), but are you following a plan to improve? What does the trend look like against last year? The last five years? Are you planning now what you need to do for success then?
(Looking for a good system to track retention? Check out my friends at Bloomerang. I’ve played with it – it’s easy to use and focused on the right things.)
Are you growing, too?
That car you’re driving won’t take you far unless you stop every so often to fill it with gas. In the same way, it’s important to fill yourself up with new ideas and new skills.
Are you learning what you planned to learn? Have you set aside time to read? Have you taken a webinar or gone to a conference? Have you spent time with colleagues who inspire you? Do you know more now than you did last December?
Remember that taking care of yourself – including the room for growth – is very important. Read more about why here.
It’s easy to be task driven when there are so many tasks to tackle.
But if you want to be sure you’re steering straight toward your year-end goals, you need to make the time to assess your progress against your plan. Then you can look beyond tomorrow to a more successful future.
Want to talk about it?
Need help building or upgrading your annual giving program? Take me up on my free, 30 minute consultation offer by leaving me a message here.
Photo credit: mirabbi