As we make the shift from the mellowness of a holiday break to the crush of spring deadlines, here are eight resolutions to consider.
- Sit down with each of your board members to figure out what each is good at, wants to do, and is uniquely equipped to do. Resolve that from now on, requests for help from board members will be made one on one, and not lobbed like water-balloons across the board room. Broadcasted requests, like water-balloons, tend to make people want to dodge. Requests made face to face, based on unique skills and strengths, draw people closer.
- Make your events bring your mission to life. Do it like the civil rights museum in Greensboro, NC. The museum is located in the Woolworths store where the first lunch counter sit-in took place in 1960. The lunch counter has been restored, down to the Elvis Presley posters behind the soda fountain. Visitors are shown a videotape of the four freshmen who launched the the sit-in movement, talking in their dorm room about confronting segregation. After the video, the tour goes through a long hall that replicates the walk across campus for the courageous young men. While I was walking through that hall, I had an almost-physical desire to turn back instead of facing the ridicule and harassment of segregationists. What can you do to create in your guests the same kind of goosebumps?
- When you are preparing a for meeting with a donor, take a moment to acknowledge that you are privileged to bask in the warmth of generosity. It is one of the greatest things about our profession: we get to see humanity at its best.
- Imagine a gift big enough to change the trajectory of your organization and what impact it might have on the community you serve. Make a list of the people in your network who could give that gift. If you can come up with five names, that is fantastic. Before the end of March, start conversations with each of them about their philanthropic aspirations and the organization’s growth potential. Not a solicitation, but the beginning of a conversation about a common concern.
- When you meet with a donor to ask for a gift, instead of fretting about how he or she will respond, focus on how to make the best solicitation you can.
- Every time you solicit a gift, resolve to report to the donor how that gift will be used. And make time to report on that impact, 6-9 months later. This is not only good stewardship, it is also the prelude to the next solicitation.
- Acknowledge gifts that don’t fit the usual channels (stock gifts, gifts from friends of the executive director, restricted gifts, etc.) fast. If you can’t send the standard thanks within three days, pick up the phone or shoot off an email to say the gift has arrived and that a formal thank you is on the way.
- When budget season comes around this year, make income projections based on real capacity, thoughtfully explored. Many organizations base income projections on what they need instead of reality. That is one of the primary causes of stress in fundraisers. Here’s one way you can turn that around: the CFO comes up with two expense projections: must-have and nice-to-have. The development officer comes up with two income projections: conservative and optimistic. CFO and development officer meet, look each other in the eye, nod respectfully, and push the envelopes containing their numbers across the table. Then they come to some an agreement about what compromise they can both be comfortable with.
Happy new year, colleagues. Take care of yourself, be good to your donors, and raise truckloads of money.
The preceding is a guest post by our regular contributor Paul Jolly, founder of Jump Start Growth, Inc. (www.jumpstartgrowth.com). Paul worked as a fund raising professional for over 20 years before starting the consulting firm Jump Start Growth. He began his career serving various Quaker institutions, then moved to The Wilderness Society, and then the American Civil Liberties Union. In every instance, he has zeroed in on gifts from individuals at the top of the giving pyramid. The focus of Paul’s consulting work is bringing sophisticated major gifts fund raising practices to organizations that are outside of the philanthropic mainstream. His successes include leading three capital campaigns for organizations new to major gifts fund raising, securing millions of dollars in bequest and planned gift commitments, and bringing new life and laser-sharp focus to disheartened development departments.