Question #4: How Do I Set the Stage for a Productive Summer?
[The strategic development firm that brought you “Eight Burning Questions for Eight Nights of Hanukkah” is back by popular demand with “The Four Fundraising Questions You Should Be Asking this Spring,” providing vital help for your fiscal campaign close.
RAISE Nonprofit Advisors utilizes its deep development and consulting experience to guide nonprofits through tough fundraising challenges, strengthening them and enabling them to achieve success. Before you sit down to the seder this year, tune in these next four days for a new question released each day. We hope these questions (and answers) will help guide you to a successful campaign close this summer, enabling your organization to better fulfill its mission.
The RAISE Nonprofit Advisors Team]
By Rachel Cyrulnik, MPA
Who doesn’t love summer? Beach, pool, ice cream … campaign planning and donor meetings? Fundraising may not be the first thought that comes to mind when conjuring up images of summer – after all, many donors are on vacation mode, and with campaign close dates so far away it’s common for nonprofits to dial back the pace at the office.
Yet, the quieter summer months should not be squandered. They are the perfect time for performance evaluation, making progress on important initiatives that went disregarded during the year, and building donor relationships.
Channeling Steven Covey: Focus on What’s Important
One of the foundational principles in Covey’s landmark book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People is time management. While there is much to say about Covey’s construct and its application to development work, he makes a fundamental point in drawing a distinction between the terms “urgent” and “important.” Urgent items must be dealt with immediately, and important items are defined as key to your existence and ability to thrive. An item can of course be both urgent and important – and that combination is where most reasonably productive people naturally spend their time. Covey points out that to make real progress on long-term goals, however, we need to clear time to focus on important tasks that are not urgent. The back burner issues.
Most months of the fundraising calendar are consumed with urgent items – closing gifts, running events, managing campaigns. The summer is the perfect time to pay attention to important back-burner issues – for instance, reviewing performance, brainstorming new initiatives, retooling your giving levels and benefits, assessing ROI of events and direct marketing during the year, or creating a social media plan.
Start Your Summer To–Do List Now
Post-Passover through June 30 is a particularly busy time for many nonprofits. When something important but non-urgent arises, write it down and compile a list so you can give it the attention it deserves in the summer.
Planning: “What’s the use of running if you are not on the right road?”
Keeping up with the frantic pace of the year often precludes us from asking the basic question, “Are we headed in the right direction?” The slower pace and warm summer weather make the summer the perfect time to clear minds and plan for the campaign year ahead.
A staff retreat is a great way to get out of the office, start the creative juices flowing, and build consensus around goals and strategy. Once you have the tenets of a plan in place, take the opportunity to invite your lay leadership to give input.
Set quantitative goals around projections and qualitative goals around communication, lay participation in committees, and events.
Donors with Vacation Brain Can Still Be Engaged!
We often hear from clients that donors are away during the summer, and they are going to wait until the year starts to set up meetings. Then the year starts and suddenly it’s High Holiday season. It could be months before you can set up meetings, and by then, people are busy with everything they’ve put off.
Meet donors where they are – literally! Ask them for an outdoor lunch or golf or a manicure if you are friendly enough with them. If you have a cluster of donors with summer homes in a particular area, pay them a visit. For example, “I’ll be in the Hamptons on Tuesday next week! Can we get together?” In this way, you will be strengthening the relationship with multifaceted cultivation points.
Show Off Your Organization’s Work
Lastly, the summer could be a great time to showcase the vital work your nonprofit provides to its recipients. Nothing can replace seeing the impact of youth summer programs, camps, and programs for the elderly firsthand. Donors may be able to leave work early or take off on a Friday to join a site visit. Schedule these outings in advance, because once the summer hits, it will be hard to compete with the myriad of alternative options.
King Solomon (and The Byrds) had it right when they said “To everything there is a season.” As you progress through the last quarter of this campaign and begin to plan for the next, the balance of your efforts will shift, but it will be your creative ideas, consistent project management, excellent stewardship and careful evaluation that will yield the results you seek. All in the right time.