Six New Year’s Resolutions for Best Fundraisers & Nonprofit Leaders

Now that we’ve stuffed ourselves full, unwrapped the presents, and (maybe) taken down the decorations, it’s time for another seasonal ritual: the dreaded New Year’s Resolutions.

Forget the joining the gym. They’ll take your money, but soon you will forget how to get there. Forget Weight Watchers, Nutrisystem, or any of the other weight-loss systems bombarding your television screen right now.

No, I’m talking about some special resolutions, just for fundraisers and nonprofit leaders. These six ideas will make your work more enjoyable and your organization more successful.

Best Fundraisers

#1: Pick Up the Phone and Call a Donor. Once a day, just stop what you’re doing and call one of your donors. It doesn’t have to be for anything specific. Ask how their holiday was, thank them for their year-end gift, or tell them about an upcoming event that they might enjoy.

#2: Go Visit a Prospect. If you’re like many people, you’re in a small shop juggling way too many things. Your organization’s newsletter, planning for your golf tournament, attending too many mindless meetings…all of these take time away from what’s really important.

So once a week, make an appointment to see a prospect. Maybe it’s one of your $500 donors who could potentially double his gift by giving $100 a month. Maybe it’s someone in your orbit who you know could give you much more than she currently is.

Yeah, I know it’s hard to make the time. But believe me, once you’re away from the office, and visiting with someone who believes in your organization, you’ll feel great. And then you’ll want to do it again.

#3: Figure Out What’s Important. Speaking of all of the balls you’re juggling, take some quiet time, right now, before it gets too busy, and reflect on what’s urgent vs. what’s important. Figuring what will go into the gift bag at the golf tournament may seem urgent, but is it really that important? Really?

Treating a donor right? That is important. Visiting a prospect? That is important. Gift bags? Not so much. Unless your event is tomorrow. (If that’s the case, what are you waiting for?)

Here’s another thought. Look at your calendar for the past couple of months. How many internal meetings did you attend? Did you really need to be at all of them? Try cutting some of them out so you can work on #1 and #2 above.

#4: Acknowledge Your Donors NOW. Those gifts that came in today? Send the acknowledgements today. Do the same thing tomorrow. And the day after.

The industry standard is to send acknowledgement letters within 24 hours of receipt of the gift. (I recently wrote that in a client’s development assessment report recently and the woman who processes gifts asked me if I was trying to kill her.)

Now, if you’re out of the office visiting a prospect or on a stewardship call, you can wait a day to send out the acknowledgements. But in the meantime, drop them an email, a text, or a phone call, just to say you received the gift and thank you.

But if you’re sitting there figuring out the gift bags, shame on you. Go acknowledge your donors.

#5: Kill that Golf Tournament or Your Gala. This one’s fun, even if it doesn’t go anywhere. Take a look at your events, and pick one that you’d like to kill off (if you want to kill all of them, I say the more the merrier).

Look at your NET revenue – and I mean all of it, including staff time to produce the event. Could you replace that revenue with some middle donors, those people who could give you $1,200 a year through monthly giving?

If you went out and visited a prospect every week (see #2 above), could you replace that revenue? Could you even increase philanthropic revenue?

Have fun with it. And if you can find a way to actually commit special event homicide, make the pitch.

(Go take a look at my previous posts on killing galas and replacing them with middle donors here, here and here.)

#6: Start Your Monthly Donor Program. Really want to kill that gala or golf tournament? Monthly giving can help. Check out my earlier article on Eight Ideas for Jumpstarting a Monthly Giving Program.

BONUS RESOLUTION: Subscribe to Fundraising Wonks for lots of thoughtful insights and tips to make your fundraising work more productive. And follow us on Instagram or Facebook.


Glenn is a fundraising strategist who loves working with small- to mid-size organizations that want to innovate and grow.

Check out his website and to find out how he can help you, email him.

Image: iStock by Getty Images






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