I am going to run a half marathon this year. There are myriad challenges ahead (exercising on the road, approaching middle age, a deep personal commitment to fried chicken) but I’ve done it before, and so I know to view this not as a revolutionary single act but rather as part of a series of modest lifestyle improvements and better habits. Incremental change is often the best and most lasting.
What are your incremental fundraising resolutions for as you anticipate the Marathon of 2016? You could start here:
- Commitment to Stewardship. I made around 25 philanthropic gifts in 2015, ranging between $100 and $1,000. I got exactly one thank you call (not for either of my $1,000 gifts nor a $500 gift to my alma mater). I chipped in $100 to a small organization where I am personal friends with the Executive Director and got a form letter thanks with no personal acknowledgement whatsoever. Don’t be an ingrate. This is shabby fundraising. Resolve to make saying Thank You a centerpiece of your fundraising program. Every single day. After you read this, call some year end donors.
- Commitment to The Job. The biggest knock against fundraisers is that we, as a profession, are all looking around for the next gig, all the time. It has to stop. Either get out now or commit yourself fully to your work in 2016. If something comes along you cannot pass up, deal with that then. But assume for now that you are going to stay in your job, building on past success and committed to deepening relationships via our $5,000 low carb lunches. Until more of us are committed to longer tenures, I don’t think we can honestly call fundraising a real profession.
- Commit to Better Hiring. I appreciate that the job market is tight right now and quality candidates have the upper hand. Good for them. But I do not accept mediocrity in your hires in 2016. Better, truly, to go without than hire a marginal candidate. A cultural organization I know hired a Director of Development with no major gift experience, and on his fourth job in five years, all from unrelated human service work. He does have a lot of twitter followers, though. How well is this going to go do you think?
- Commit to a Plan. An annual fund’s (and all other fundraising initiatives) ultimate success is dependent on careful planning and execution, starting in January. Your program is served by consistency and repetition of best practice. So that means Just Saying No to the unplanned Giving Tuesday brainstorm a week before Thanksgiving. Leave improvisation to the Jazz musicians. Use that creativity to inspire your donors in conversation and to cast a vision.
- Commitment to Mentorship. We all need a coach or mentor, even those of us whose primary job it is to coach and consult. Co-workers, spouses and friends are all wonderful, of course, but mostly cannot be the impartial ear and advice giver you need. The best professionals I know both seek outside perspective regularly and serve as mentors for others. It works. Work it.
- Commitment Not to Take Any Crap from Marketing. Just kidding! This year, how about a simple incremental resolution that communications become integrated to the point that a patron won’t receive two mailings from your organization on the same day? Push it and say the same week? That will be real progress for most non-profits.
- Recognize the Opportunity. Let’s get after it friends. Whatever challenges you face this year, no one is going to care at all in 2017 except about your ultimate progress towards fundraising goals. This is the wealthiest moment in the history of the wealthiest country the world has ever seen. Capacity is not the issue. Celebrate your successes. Keep pushing.
I will let you know how my Marathon goes. Go Run Yours.