Fundraising TimeAn audio version of this post is available here.

September seems to mark the beginning of fundraising season.  You’ll start getting those “end of year campaign” letters in the mail from all your favorite organizations.  (If you don’t already save the mailings you get from other groups, start now!  They make great examples and creativity boosters when writing your own letters.) Are you ready for your own end of year campaign?  How about mailing out your next newsletter?

Besides annual giving and mailings the last part of the year is a usual time for events too.  It’s a busy, busy season.  The last thing you probably need right now is a long learning curve or another thing to add to the to-do list.  I’d like to help you actually get rid of some of the tasks that are distracting you from truly achieving fundraising success.  Are you ready?

Step 1: Choose your ONE GOAL – Stop what you are doing right now and list the one goal that you would like to see accomplished between now and December 31st.  Is it an annual gala?  A major gift of $50,000 for a building campaign?   Growing your monthly membership club?  Choose that one thing and focus your attention and energy on that.

It’s likely that you have multiple fundraising efforts going on here and there.  To a certain extent that is fine and a necessary way to run your long term funding activities.  But at a certain point, adding just one more fundraiser becomes “noise” to your audience.  Plus it can send your team running in a dozen directions and unsure of what you’re really trying to accomplish.  Get focused.  Then you’ll get results. Period.

Step 2: Plan now – Okay most people know they should plan ahead 6 months to 1 year out for major giving campaigns and special events, but let’s face it many of us are procrastinators, bad planners or just plain busy!  Get out the calendar and decide what the milestone goals are for your big goal if you have not already.  If you already have, make sure those are still realistic due dates and if there are any other details that need to be established.

Don’t conduct planning like this on your own.  Make sure that key stakeholders such as the board leadership, executive director and other staff are involved.  Have an intense planning session with those directly involved with making this goal a reality.  Your detailed planning meeting doesn’t necessarily need to include all the stakeholders — you just need to make sure that the right people are aware of and support your goal.

Also don’t make this a long drawn out session.  Your objective with this planning session is to be able to focus on the big idea and how to hit the ground running so you can meet your goal between now and the end of the year.  There’s not much time, so don’t get too hung up on items that are not urgent and that don’t directly apply to your goal.

Step 3: Maximize your efforts – You’ve got the goal and the basic plans in place.  Now, how can you truly maximize your efforts?  Jim Berigan did a great job of elaborating on this concept over at the Top School blog in a post called The Single Best Fundraising Idea You’ll Hear Today:

I think everyone should go back to what they are already doing and dramatically improve it. That’s right. I’m saying that you should look at all the fundraising activities you have undertaken over the past year. Did you maximize your effort in each one? If not, how come? What specifically was holding you back? How was your customer service? How was the quality of your fundraising letters? How effective was your pre-launch marketing effort? Was everyone in your organization invited and encouraged to participate? How did your organizational management go on the day of each event? How was your record keeping? Did everyone get a thank you letter?

An example of maximizing efforts could be adding another funding opportunity to a special event, such as an auction, raffle, or table sponsors.  On the other hand, be careful that you are not over asking your supporters.  Sometimes having too many donation opportunities will come off as crass or at the very least, a bit annoying.  Use discretion.

Finally, maximizing also means to be sure you are rounding all the bases. There’s a non-profit organization in my local area that I personally support that is putting on a great event this month.  They’ve been speaking at local groups and been featured on the local news.  But there’s one area that was missed.  The internet.  I went online to find out information on the event and there was nothing on their website.  There was nothing about it on the local newspaper site.  Now I know that this is simply an oversight because they’ve been good at getting info on the local web portal in the past.  Make sure that your web efforts, like everything else, are maximized for whatever your one goal happens to be. There’s additional resources for you to do this in our directory on the publicity and online fundraising pages.

That’s it. Set your One Goal, Plan it, then Maximize it.  It’s time for action if you want to meet those end of year objectives.  Get going.  Now.

Posted on 11 September 2008

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