2018 is almost gone. Time for new start, don’t you think?
So before 2019 is here, I want to share some thoughts about your new year.
You know how it goes. If just do what you’ve always done, you’re lucky if you get the same results.
I know planning can seem time-consuming, especially when every day is packed. But taking the time – even forcing yourself to make the time – to plan will lead to better results. And may save you time throughout the year.
Making decisions on the fly is hard. It’s stressful. And it often results in poor choices, made because of deadlines.
As you think about 2019, begin with setting aside a day, or even half a day. If you have staff, this should include everyone involved with fundraising. Find space where you won’t be distracted. (No “I just have one quick question” interruptions.) If you’re a one-person shop, find space away from the office.
Review the last 12 months. What worked? Why? What didn’t work? Why?
Don’t answer those questions with your gut. Bring numbers. (Sometimes numbers will surprise you!)
Then ask yourself how you can better serve your mission. And your donors.
You undoubtedly keep a sharp eye on the total dollars raised. But that one number is not enough to guide you. In fact, it can send you in the wrong direction. For example: your 2018 total is $50,000 higher than last year. Celebration! But that number includes a $20,000 bequest. And two of your highest-dollar donors are moving. And another $10,000 came from memorial gifts for a deceased board member.
Suddenly, you can see you might be heading for trouble in 2019, right?
If you don’t already have a robust set of metrics that you use to guide you, now’s a good time to compile one. Ideally, your donor database system offers you what you need in a dashboard. But many do not, or only look at a few important numbers.
Of course, dollars. But dive deeper. Donor segments? Solicitation channels? Total giving, average gift, median gift (because a few very high gifts can skew that average.)
And numbers. How many donors? How many recent donors? At-risk donors? Those who haven’t given in a while?
How many people give recurring gifts? How many give at what you’d consider a major gift level?
Look at response rates, so you get a sense of what messaging and timing was more successful.
Then, please, take the time to figure out retention rates and lifetime value for your donors.
That’s a lot of information for you to pull together. But the first thing you’ll want to plan is how to collect all that information on a regular basis. If your donor management system doesn’t make that easy, then set up a dashboard yourself in Excel. It’s important. This is your guide.
You should know your way around merging data into your communications. And you should have a good donor management system – one you can use with no trouble.
Then you should take care of it and feed it good, usable information about your donors. So that you can reflect that information back to your donors.
So they feel known and respected.
Love your donors more
Take a hard look at your communications. All about you? Or all about the donor?
If there’s one thing I consistently see in nonprofit communications in my mailbox or inbox, it’s this. Corporate communications. All about the organization. Shiny, happy, and all about us. Hoping to dazzle the reader into giving.
The truth is you’re not going to brag your way into a gift.
Add a little surprise and delight to the mix. You know what you’re seeing at home. (How many solicitations do you get a week?) Does anything stand out? Is there an organization whose mail or email you’re excited to open?
Include a gift. And I don’t mean stuff. I mean, make what you say a gift. Something compelling. Something satisfying they can chew on. Something that makes your donors feel, and then feel good. You can do it!
And you’ll find it’s really fun and satisfying on your end, too.
Try something new
Nothing works forever. The world keeps changing around us. So don’t be afraid to try something.
- If you don’t have a print donor newsletter, try it. Done right, your donors will respond.
- If your annual report is all business, try creating something that donors will want to read.
- If you spend all your time in the office, try setting up some donor meetings. Not to solicit them, necessarily. But to learn from them. To get to know them.
- Hold a phone Thankathon with your board and staff.
- Write donors a “just because” thank you – one not connected to a recent gift.
- Start really paying attention to your long-time donors, regardless of their giving amount. Give them a special club name. Invite them over for a thank you event. Make them proud of their relationship to your cause.
Commit to learning
Learning is never done. Every day there’s new information about our field. The best part of this is we have a very generous sector. There are so many smart people sharing those smarts every day on social media.
And there are webinars and courses you can take advantage of from your desk. There are so many books full of great information. Or promise yourself you’ll get out of the office for a conference.
Make time to care for you
I know it’s hard. And there aren’t easy answers. Too little time or money. Too much to do. So much pressure.
But if you’re run down, if you’re out of steam, if you’re feeling exhausted… you won’t be able to do your best work.
We have a real problem. There’s so much that needs fixing in the world! But you matter, too. And if you insist on what you need, if more of us insist on it, we can make change happen. Be kind to you.