Now that you have a fresh year in front of you, it’s time to get serious about what you’ll do with it.

Will it be just another year?

Or will this be YOUR year?

While you ponder that, let me tell you what I think you SHOULD do with this year.

It’s what I think the outstanding nonprofits will be doing this year.

None of this is hard, and it’s not earth-shattering.

Almost all of it requires a slight shift in your thinking and actions.

You up for the challenge?

 

  1. Focus on WHY, not HOW. You must tell your story – people need to know what you’re about before they’ll give, and current donors need to be kept in the loop. Talk about what’s important – the WHY, now the HOW. Talk about the impact you’re having, not the process for how you get it. You’re more familiar with the process and programs, and that’s what you naturally think of.  People don’t care about your programs – they want to know what you’re doing that matters. Stop talking about programs and start talking about how your programs change lives
  2. Refocus the communication. While you’re communicating, stop being all self-centered. Stop talking about “we, we, we” and “us, us, us.” Stop promoting your annual fund. No one cares about your annual fund or your need to pay staff or keep the lights on. What people care about is the work you’re doing that changes lives. Talk about impact and outcomes.
  3. Give the donor a great experience. Donors are much smarter and more sensitive than ever before. Give them a great experience and warm their heart, and they’ll stick around, giving again and again. Do an average job and you risk losing them. Surprise them. Delight them. At least pay attention to the little details. Thank them warmly and sincerely, and help them feel confident they made a good decision to give. It’ll come back to you over and over.
  4. Ask often. Fundraising is an ongoing activity. You shouldn’t just ask once each year (unless you only need money once each year). Ask often. Ask for money, ask for volunteers. Ask folks to visit you on Facebook or buy tickets to your event. Ask them to come for a tour or to sign your petition. There are lots of ways people can get involved with your organization, so give them options. When a donor cares about your work, they WANT to see you succeed. They’re ready to help however they can. Give them that chance.
  5. Simplify. Eliminate every activity that loses money or generates less than stellar ROI. Let go of most of your events or “fundraisers.” Stop doing nickel and dime fundraising. Instead do those things that are really worthwhile – those things that exceed your goals and bring in money, awareness, and new friends.
  6. Leverage  the “Tom Sawyer” effect.  Make volunteering so much fun that people might pay to do it (not that you’d ask). Volunteers can no longer be a commodity or treated as second class citizens. People who give their time will also give their money to nonprofits they believe are well-run. Make volunteering fun and you’ll not only see people come back, but they’ll bring their friends. And they’ll tell everyone they know how great your organization is. They’ll turn into an army of ambassadors for you.
  7. Take responsibility for your Board.  Start educating Board members about how to do their job instead of using blame, shame, and guilt. If you don’t like the Board you have, it’s time to stop complaining about it and change it. Get them some education. Get a few new members on board. Do something – the situation won’t change on its own, and you’re likely the only person who is in a position to do something about it.
  8. Write plans down. If your fundraising plans aren’t in writing, they aren’t real. Get them out of your head and put them on paper so you can have an objective look at them. Stop shooting from the hip and dealing with whatever drops from the sky. Be purposeful, create a plan, and get it documented. It’s a whole lot easier to get your co-workers, Board and volunteers engaged with a plan when they can see it on paper.
  9. Stretch for a goal. Look for a way to make things one tiny bit better. How can you increase your ROI on your event? Or your appeal? How can you make volunteering just a tiny bit more fun? Get out of your comfort zone and reach for something worthwhile. It’ll keep you focused in the right direction and help you improve everything you do.
  10. Invest in yourself. Investing in training for staff is one of the best investments you’ll ever make. Get them the books they need, hire a coach, or find a workshop. It’s NOT a badge of honor to work on a shoestring without spending any money on improving the team. If you work on the cheap, you’ll get cheap results. Who wants that?

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