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Nonprofit New Year Resolutions to Keep (or Make Right Now)

Focusing Your Fundraising Efforts in 2020

Most of us in small nonprofit life are starting our first full week of the new year. I know, I know, you’re thinking...

“New year!? I just completed the end-of-year dash (jingle bells and all), and I finally wrapped up the last gifts of the year on December 31st.”

You may be lamenting the lack of planning time in late summer/early fall of 2019. Let it Go! Let it Go! It’s a fresh week. Block out time to make resolutions and to plant the seeds for a more fruitful fundraising year or mid-fiscal-year push to July.

To get started, here are a hand full of the resolutions our clients have made:

1. We will respect the time and resources we have. In small nonprofit life, our ambition to exponentially increase the number of those we serve often doesn’t match where we are right now. Our human and financial resources are limited. So, we resolve to honor staff personal time to recharge. Burnout and turnover only compounds the challenges of our lean operation.

We resolve to take a critical look at our fund development plan. Running on an event-heavy hamster wheel does not necessarily garner increased net revenue.

Hint: Strengthening personal donor relationships leads to greater gifts at a much lesser cost. So does increasing monthly, recurring gifts.

Finally, we resolve to streamline processes so that we are working more efficiently with the time we have.


a. Mark staff vacation and holiday time on the calendar. And stick to it! Be sure that event, campaign, or design/mailing projects aren’t running into or immediately following this sacred time. Creativity and inspiration are fueled outside of the office.

b. Assess your fund development plan. What can you let go of so that you can spend more time building donor relationships?

c. Clean your data from last year’s sign-ups and mailers. Ensure that what you are putting into your database will result in quality and utility when you pull reports out of it. Automate what you can. Create additional processes to cover the gap between the many people that build relationships on behalf of your organization and the database where the donor information lives.

2. We will commit to #accountability. We resolve to move past the budgeting and revenue goal-setting tasks and to create an actionable fund development plan to achieve these goals on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. A focus on activity leads to results; staring at number goals does not. Accountability ensures that the activity happens and allows us to address challenges and discover opportunities.


a. Create a #fundraisingtimeline for activities from phone calls and donor meetings to event deadlines and direct mail drops.

b. Include activities in your plan for all stages of the donor relationship including cultivation, the ask, and stewardship.

c. Set weekly accountability meetings. Effective sessions address challenges, solutions, and steps to move a donor closer to the next gift.

3. We will connect more deeply with the mission. Fundraisers can often be isolated from the mission in action. Spending time in the programs and with program staff keeps us connected to the passion/emotion of why we advocate for funds in the first place. Mission moments can be a great starting point. In addition, we encourage fundraisers to meet regularly with program leaders to understand program goals, needs, and priorities. Update your case for support. Get a fresh impact story. Discover prospective donor leads.


a. Set regular one-to-one meetings with program staff.

4. We will place a focus on #gratitude in 2020. Running from one event, direct mail, or social media deadline to the next can have us pressing the print button on our standard gift acknowledgement letter and having it folded, stuffed, and mailed by a volunteer without much thought.

This year, we resolve to think of ways in which we can express our gratitude beyond the automated letter and let the donor feel it. Could our board make phone calls and send hand-written notes? Might there be a personal story, art, or hand-written thank you from those who benefit from donations? Could we share a simple 30-second smartphone video message? The key is to segment your donors and get creative with the thank you process.

Hint: Previous donors are most likely to give again and more in the new year. Let’s make sure they feel a greater part of making the mission possible.


a. Create a #DonorGratitudePlan for 2020 and implement it.

5. We will step outside of our fear. Asking for anything, especially money, can be scary for staff, CEOS, board members, and volunteers. If we’ve gathered the courage to set up an appointment to speak with someone for financial support, the fear can then rear its ugly head through a request that lacks confidence, giving the donor a quick “out” to say no, not being specific, or asking for a lesser amount, among many other ways. We resolve to do our research, get to know prospective donors, know the needs of the mission we advocate for are great, and be confident in our donor’s ability to recognize these needs and to consider a proportionate gift to their means. We resolve to let the donor decide!


a. Develop a donor #movesmanagement process

b. Conduct #donorresearch

c. Schedule donor conversations that are just about getting to know the donor’s


d. Focus on the mission and its needs; know your case for support

e. Make strong, unapologetic requests

Comment below with YOUR suggested New Year Resolution!

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