New Year’s Resolutions for a More Profitable New Year for Your Nonprofit

Working Smart All Year Long

First, let’s get the obvious out of the way. We will all eat better and exercise more. We need to take care of ourselves to take care of others and it helps beautify the planet. Second, resolve to grouse sparingly and accept the challenge that fundraising is getting more competitive, government funding is decreasing, our donors are besieged with requests and we have to work smarter.

You are probably already doing some of these things. Add one to your schedule and commit to it religiously. Measure results. Retool what doesn’t work and celebrate success. Here are some options:

  1. Thanks all of your donors within 48 hours by phone. I learned this from Penelope Burk. Her book, “Donor Centered Fundraising,” includes scripts you can customize for your callers. The book is expensive, but worth every penny. Every board I’ve been on and every client who has done this has made major leaps in donor retention and gift size. Board members who are afraid to ask are great candidates to take this on. Create a spread sheet for your board members that includes the donor’s name, phone number and length of years as a donor. Have a space on your spread sheet for comments. They might include:
    a. Wrong number
    b. Left message
    c. Has had a problem with our services-CEO needs to follow-up
    d. Has recently lost a parent or spouse, in which case, the CEO needs to write a personal note.
  2. Have a meal with a donor a minimum of 3 times a month. As a nonprofit leader, whether on the board or staff side, you need to dine-with-a-donor at least 3 times a month. I was on a board and the CEO of 26 years had never done this. His first time out, he came back with a $5000 check. The next day, he was eating in the agency kitchen and his staff told him to get on the phone and make a lunch date. My pal Marshall Howard’s book “Let’s Have Lunch” is a great resource for those new to this form of donor cultivation and networking.
  3. Create a blog or start tweeting. This is a little tricky. It can’t be too juicy or too boring. Nobody cares that you had a great bran muffin for breakfast. Your organization cannot afford to share that there is a nurse treating your clients at a nearby hospital who is a creep and a loser at venapuncture. If a staff, board member or volunteer is taking on this task, monitor it for at least the first few months to make sure you don’t create a snooze-fest or a defection by donors.
  4. Create a leadership council to meet with quarterly. Set up the meetings for the year and listen carefully to what they say. These are usually people with expertise who cannot or should not be on your board. This might be:
    a. A consumer council of your clients.
    b. A medical or scientific advisory committee.
    c. A group of major donors.
    d. Your colleagues and/or competitors who work in the same field.
    e. Past board and staff who have history with your agency.
    Be sure to listen carefully to what they say and report back between meetings what you have done with their advice.
  5. Meet with a board member once a month. If you are a board member and have missed a meeting, take the exec out for a catch-up meeting. For those of us who are board members and periodically have to miss meetings, it is up to us to follow-up with staff. You might want to schedule a coffee or lunch when you know you are going to miss a meeting in advance of the meeting so that you will stay in the loop. It cures guilt, regardless of your religious up-bringing, the staff will appreciate your commitment and you will be able to do a better job making decisions and giving your time and money.
  6. Start taking photos or videos and posting them on your website weekly. I always carry a small camera in my purse, plus my phone has a camera. There might even be a camera in my new bra that I’m unaware of. All also have video. When out and about, take photos of who is doing what, and what needs to be done. Get photo releases. This is especially true when you are working with minors or vulnerable populations. The web is a visual media. Share your story in a visual way.
  7. Commit to reading a professional journal on a regular basis. I religiously read The Chronicle of Philanthropy, The Harvard Business Review, and People Magazine. The first two I highly recommend, the third is sherbet for the mind and if you read one on an airplane, give it to the hard-working flight attendant and you will be a hero. You can choose something in your field such as a scientific or professional journal or something that has to do with your community such as your local Business Journal. Whatever you choose, stick with it.

So, here is to a prosperous and healthy 2112, which will be filled with generous donors so that we can fund our missions. I have to run now, to grab some chips and watch one more episode of “Keeping Up with the Kardashians” before I go to the gym then have a salad.

If you are planning board training next year, give me a call at 314 374 2700 to get on my schedule or e-mail me.

I need Carol to