Create a Roadmap

You’ve just finished another year of fundraising in which you exceeded your income goals, attracted many new donors and helped your organization reach all time high levels of impact.  And what do you get in return for the job well done?  You get to start from scratch all over again! 

Yogi Berra was quoted as saying, “If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll end up some place else”.  Rather than find yourself in Yogi’s shoes this year wondering how you’re going to exceed last year’s results your organization should have goals for the year ahead and a road map to get there.  Here are some ways to ensure that your organization continues to build upon the momentum you started last year and increase your income and impact in the year ahead:

  1. Set new goals:  Do you know how much it will cost to achieve the goals that your organization has set for the coming year?  Do you have the donors to help you reach the income necessary to fund those important costs?  You’ll never know unless you set income goals for the coming year.  Each category of giving (direct, major and planned) should include goals based on past performance and current intelligence about these donors.  For Direct Mail you should look at retention and attrition rates and calculate those effects on new dollars that will need to be raised.  For Major Gifts be sure to remove any significant one time gifts that may have come in during the previous year so as not to project unrealistic goals.  Set goals for as many of your current major donors as possible increasing your targets when you think a donor has become closer to your mission.  For planned gifts projecting is often imprecise for larger organizations and detrimental for organizations just getting started.  It is still wise to set goals for how many commitments you hope to attain and project the value of those commitments to ensure future success.
  2. Create a Calendar of Communications:  Your calendar of communications is often the closest thing to a road map that a development department has as it sets out to achieve its new goals.  Set dates for mail, emails, social media, campaigns, events and major solicitations throughout the year and try to connect dollars raised with those activities.   By doing so you establish a means of accountability and this also helps determine if you are on track towards hitting your goals. 
  3. Improve Stewardship:  The late, great John Von Kannon, who led the Heritage Foundation’s Development department for many years, used to decry fundraising professionals who saw donors as ATMs.   He would joke that, “You’ve got money, we need money, give us money” is no way to solicit gifts that establish lasting relationships.  Organizations that get to know the passions of their donors and steward those passions by engaging, thanking and informing them will see the greatest increases in giving.  As you set goals for donors look for ways to invite them to non-fundraising events that remind them why they give.  Send thank you cards and letters throughout the year and not just when a donor has made a gift.  Many organizations chose a day that has significance to the mission (Valentine’s Day for an organization fighting heart disease) or history (anniversary of the founding) to send these communications.
  4. Celebrate Impact: Organizations that don’t plan often forget the importance of celebrating wins.  This is a mistake that can lead development teams to burn out and feel that their work has no purpose.  Acknowledging when goals are met or when significant gifts are received will not only give your organization the boost it deserves it will encourage your team to strengthen relationships with the donors who help them achieve their goals and increase the impact of your organization. 

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