New (Fiscal) Year’s Resolutions for Development Pros

Happy new (fiscal) year. For a majority of nonprofits, July 1, marks the start of a new fiscal year. And even if your organization’s fiscal starts on October 1, January 1, or some other date, this post is a reminder that it’s never too late to create and fulfill new resolutions.

Six months ago, I wrote a post similar to this. This July 1, I’m taking another pass at the topic, but this time, focusing on just five things that nonprofit pros involved in fundraising can — and should do.

Unlike big aspiration goals like losing 30 pounds, going to the gym eight days a week, or taking a big trip, these are five simple resolutions that really will make a difference in your organization.

#1. Say Thank You Every Day

It’s critical to your donors to thank them immediately after you receive the gift. They want to know that it was actually received, that we noticed it, and that we appreciate it.

As I wrote in a recent post, it’s baffling to me how so many nonprofits don’t get it. Best practice calls for us to acknowledge gifts within 24 to 48 hours of receipt. That means that we need to process gifts every day. Every. Single. Day. You can wait until the end of the week to deposit checks, but you need to process them in your donor database daily and get those letters out.

The same goes through credit card gifts that come through your website. I’ve talked to so many nonprofits that only process credit cards weekly — and in some cases — only monthly. You need to do it daily.

This year, make a pledge to yourself — and your donors — that you will tend to this very simple — yet important — task daily.

#2. Make Monthly the Default

I have written in the past (here and here) about monthly donor programs. I totally get that embarking on this path can be daunting.

At a recent workshop I did on strategic planning for annual giving, one participant asked how she was supposed to start one of these programs along with the myriad other things she has on her plate. Good questions.

There are some really great best practices out there, and every organization should be mobilizing around them, but here is one easy-to-accomplish thing that you should resolve to do this year: make monthly the default on your direct response vehicles (e.g., pledge cards in your mail program), and most especially your website. This takes no time at all. It’s one change in the design of your pledge cards and a simple programming change on your website.

#3. Ask Your Best Donors for a Bequest

Too few nonprofits have formal planned giving programs. And I’m not surprised. They can be scary because of their complexity. Many fundraisers are appropriately training. And many people just don’t have the time to create the infrastructure.

All of that is legitimate. But bequest programs are entry-level planned giving. And they don’t require anything but a little bit of attention.

This year, I encourage you to do two things:

  1. Include bequests in your conversations with major gift prospects and with current donors.
  2. Send a letter to all your board members, former board members, and major donors above a certain age (say, mid 50s), encouraging them to leave your organization in their will, and to let you know they’ve done so.

#4. Pay Attention to the Middle

So many organizations don’t pay attention to the “forgotten middle.” You know, those individuals who give (or could give) above the annual giving level and below the major gift threshold (think: $1,000 to $10,000 annually).

Now, I grant you that creating or rebooting your middle donor program may not be the easiest of tasks. Certainly not as easy as #1, #2, and #3 above.

Even if you can’t get it done this year, make a pledge to work on it this year and get ready to launch next.

#5. Host a House Party

A great way to build your middle donor program, even if you don’t have a formal structure, is to get a board member or donor to host a house party. The kind where they invite friends, neighbors, and associates into their home to hear about your organization, and then invite them to join your President’s Circle.

Bonus Resolution

Subscribe to Fundraising Wonks today. There’s a box for you to do that on this site. (And if you’re reading this post on LinkedIn, go to Fundraising Wonks to subscribe.) In the next few months, we’re going to have a lot more content on middle donor programs and house parties, including an entire book on house parties, and some new services to help you get your middle donor program on its feet.

Glenn is principal of GKollaborative. He’s a fundraising strategist who loves working with small- to mid-size organizations that want to innovate and grow. GKollaborative helps for-good organizations increase their philanthropic revenue by uncovering what is – and is not – currently working for them – and helping them to identify the best ideas for their organization and put them into action.

You can contact Glenn at glennk@gkollaborative.com and follow him on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. He’s also the author of the forthcoming House Party: How to Turn a Home Into a Powerful Fundraising Tool.

Cover photo by Edewaa Foster on Unsplash.

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