Planning and strategic thought doesn’t happen for me when I’m under pressure, which is most of the year. But the long, lazy months of summer present a whole other set of stressors. Donors are out of town, boards and committees take time off, fellow staff members are taking things easy.
Just when I’m in a mood to get stuff done, no one else seems to have the slightest bit of hurry in them. It can be maddening.
Rather than fuss about how it seems nothing productive will happen until September, think about how you can make the most of this opportunity. Summer is a great time to recharge your development program, and you don’t have to depend upon the availability of others to do some important work.
Look at the big picture – If you don’t have a development calendar, put one together. List all of your activities throughout the year: events, outreach, cultivation, proposals, recognition, training, collaboration, recruitment. What were your pain points this year? Too few volunteers for an event? Thank you letters taking too long to go out? A missed deadline on a grant report? Think about how you can better use your time. Identify activities that can be delegated, cut, added or changed to mitigate your biggest problems.
Catch up with the world – Cool stuff in our industry was happening while you were busy. Read periodicals. Take an e-course. Network with development professionals in other organizations. To the outside world you are the expert on your cause. To your organization, you are the expert in fund development. You should be capable of providing valuable input in planning, budgeting, policies and procedures according to the best practices in the industry and standards of ethics. When things slow down it’s the perfect time to learn more about your job.
Evaluate your donor programs – In just a few, short months we’ll be in the middle of the busiest season of the year for development. Do your donors hear from you at any other time? When someone makes a contribution, how are they acknowledged? When do they get updates from you on your progress? How and when are they asked to re-engage and with what frequency do they do so? Right now, while things are quiet, identify two or three tactics you can employ this year to improve the donor experience. Identify who will be responsible and when they will get done. Next summer you can look over your donor programs again, evaluate the impact of your changes, and identify others.
Examine opportunities – Many fundraising professionals are approached by volunteers and others throughout the year with ideas about fundraising strategies and events based upon their experience with other organizations. I end up tucking these suggestions somewhere I can evaluate them when things are less busy. Summer is a great time for this kind of thought.
Clean and organize – If you’re like me, stacks of stuff left unfiled or unsorted can be stressors at other times of the year, when a crazy schedule leaves me feeling out of control. Come to the office one day in your casual clothes, ready to pull everything out and organize your guts out. Go through your files. Archive old proposals. Recycle all but one copy of your monthly meeting minutes and agendas. Pull out that Rubbermaid bin from last spring’s auction event. Return the clipboards and pens to the supply cabinet.
Get a jump on the rest of the year – Don’t wait until everything’s due at once. Start curating stories for your annual giving letter. Organize your social media calendar. Make sure you have the most current application form for the grant that’s due this fall. Identify new potential board or committee members, or flesh out a profile of one who would be helpful to the development process, as suggestions to the nominating committee.
September will come, soon enough, with its blessings of structure and schedule. If these are the slower months for your organization, consider it a gift of time and space to position your development program for success the rest of the year.
photo by: gfpeck