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Work Smarter, Not Harder

Work Smarter, Not Harder

I think we can all agree that we work hard. But do we always work smart?

An annual fundraising plan (AFP) can help fundraisers do just that: Work smarter.

Creating an AFP is easy. It’s a great way to manage and motivate your staff, volunteers, board members and supervisor. An AFP develops outcomes that can be used for organizational assessment and future planning. An effective AFP sets expectations and helps staff members reach their individual goals while clearly defining their roles and responsibilities. It is the road map for staff and key stakeholders to move their institutions forward.

First, ask yourself this question: “How would you describe your institution’s current annual fundraising plan?” Here are a few common answers and some thinking to guide where to go from there.

Plan? What plan?

Let’s be honest: Most fundraisers, especially in smaller fundraising shops, do not have a comprehensive AFP. You may have a plan for specific campaigns or programs, or staff members may individually plan what they are working on, but there most likely isn’t an AFP for the entire unit or team. If you’re in this situation, that’s okay. Begin a conversation today with your fellow staff members on the benefits of creating a comprehensive AFP that includes all stakeholders’ participation. (My bookAnnual Fundraising Plans Made Simple: A Road Map for Community Colleges and Small Development Shopscan also help you get started.)

We have a plan, but it isn’t working well or meeting all of our goals.

You may have an AFP (usually limited in scope), but all or most members of the team have difficulty sticking to it. If that’s your situation, don’t be discouraged! You are already heading in the right direction. Your AFP may need some updating. One explanation: Those responsible for implementing the AFP may view it as an unnecessary inconvenience in a busy workday. There are many ways to overcome this hurdle. One is to review the targeted outcomes with your team to ensure that these outcomes are based on metrics and not-pie-in-the sky projections. Others may have an AFP that they adhere to, but it may not be working well or meeting their goals. If that’s you, don’t be disheartened. Take a step back for a moment and re-evaluate. Clear your head. Try to look at it from the viewpoint of a third party, such as a consultant. Remember, you are the one who is closest to all the action. You have the expertise. You just need a little separation. When you look at your AFP again, you may be able to do so a little more objectively. Your AFP is probably not working due to one or both of these factors:

  • The plan is not clear and concise.
  • The tactics in the plan are not being implemented effectively to attain the desired outcomes.

We have a plan, but it’s not realistic.

Still others may have an AFP, but it isn’t realistic. A common pitfall when creating an AFP is to over-promise and under-deliver. When this happens, people quickly determine that the AFP isn’t useful, which often has a negative impact on morale. The AFP may be placed on a shelf, never to be looked at again. Don’t fall into this trap. For an AFP to be effective, it must be realistic.

We have one, but it needs improvement.

Finally, you may have a pretty good AFP, but you know that there is always room for improvement. For the individuals in this group, I commend you for your effort and interest in continuing your quest for improvement. I encourage you to celebrate achieving your milestones.

You have the power to make your life easier with an AFP. You have the power to lead your staff, volunteers and board members. It starts with you.

What does the term “mission fundraising” mean to you?

I define mission fundraising as sharing the purpose or reason of existence for your organization with donors for the purpose of raising much-needed philanthropic support, so the organization may advance its mission or cause. It sounds simple. But in reality, how simple is it?

Understanding and communicating your mission is one of the most vital components of fundraising. Before you kick off your next fundraising campaign or program, ask yourself these questions:

  1. Do I know my organization’s mission statement?
  2. Do my colleagues know the organization’s mission statement?
  3. Can my colleagues and I enthusiastically share our mission with our constituencies?

Let’s go back to the first question: “Do I know my organization’s mission statement?” If you do, say it out loud right now (if you are in a coffee shop or another public place, you may want to whisper under your breath). Now, go “old school” with a pen and write your mission statement on a piece of paper. Next, go online or look anywhere your organization’s mission statement is published, and compare what you see to what you said and wrote. How close are you?

Now go through the same exercise with your colleagues. At your next staff meeting, ask, “Do you know our organization’s mission statement?” Ask your colleagues to write it on a piece of paper. Then read the mission statement aloud. Don’t be disappointed if all your colleagues don’t know the organization’s mission statement. Rather, use this as a learning opportunity.

You are now ready to tackle the next question: “Can my colleagues and I enthusiastically share our mission with our constituencies?” This is a challenging question, since having the ability to enthusiastically share the mission of an organization and being comfortable doing so can vary greatly from person to person and from situation to situation. Here’s a strategy to implement: Include your organization’s mission statement on your website, board agendas, and every piece of literature that goes to any of your key stakeholders. I have found that once the mission statement is prevalent online and in all print materials, it becomes easier and more natural to express.

Mission fundraising is extremely powerful. But to maximize its effectiveness, you must first know what your organization’s mission is; ensure that your colleagues know what your organization’s mission is; and become comfortable and confident in sharing your mission with key stakeholders of the organization. 

Lose the Lingo

I am a big baseball fan and have been for as long as I can remember.

But there is one part of baseball that annoys me to no end: Baseball lingo. There are Banjo Hitter (a player who lacks power), Bazooka (a strong throwing arm), Pickle (a rundown), and RISP (runners in scoring position), just to name a few.

That got me thinking: As development professionals, oops, I mean professional fundraisers, we have also created a vernacular all unto ourselves. Much like baseball, ours is a universal language that we understand, but few outside our profession grasp. Let’s have a little fun at our own expense.

Annual Fund. Planned Giving. Development. LYBUNT and SYBUNT.

Let’s start with Annual Fund. I believe that Annual Fund was a term created by a lazy Development Director – I mean Fundraising Director — who only wanted to send mail once a year. As we all know, a comprehensive annual giving program – I mean Direct Response program – is a 12-month effort.

Fundraising Director: Doesn’t that sound better then Director of Development? At least if you tell someone you are a Fundraising Director, they know what you do for a living. When I had the title of Director of Development, I would frequently receive direct mail solicitations for real estate ventures. I once asked a successful Major Gifts Officer if he thought his title made it more difficult for him to get appointments and secure gifts. His response to me was telling, and one I’ll never forget. He said his title opened doors and lines of communication for him that otherwise would have been closed. He believes that by having your title explicitly identify your role, it is upfront and easier to build relationships with high-end donors because they know what you do and what to expect. I couldn’t agree more.

Planned Giving: There’s another term I would like to see mothballed. Let me ask you this: Have you set up a will or bequest with an attorney on behalf of yourself or your family? When you set the appointment, did you say that you wanted to create a will, or did you say that you wanted to put your planned giving in place? Most donors don’t know what a planned gift is unless they are properly educated by a Planned Giving Officer. Maybe it would be better if Planned Giving Officers were just called Major Gift Officers – because truly, that’s what they are. 

LYBUNT and SYBUNT: I saved these two terms for last. They are my favorites. They are fun phrases to say: I’ve even been known to utter them aloud myself. But watch the company with whom you use these terms. Sure, it might be useful and even a little entertaining to throw those phrases around to your development – there I go again – I mean fundraising committee — to impress your leadership with your vocabulary. If this is the route you choose, look at their facial expressions. Wait a moment to see if they have enough courage to ask you what LYBUNT and SYBUNT mean, or if they just let you continue speaking with the hope that you’ll be done shortly. Wouldn’t it be much clearer to say a donor who made a gift last year but has yet to make a gift this year (LYBUNT) or a donor who made a gift in the past but not last year or this year (SYBUNT)?

Here’s your assignment: Ask your fellow fundraising professionals if they like their current title or if they believe it hinders them in their job. Ask your friends outside the scope of fundraising if they have ever included their favorite charities in their will or bequests or as beneficiaries on any of their financial assets or accounts. If they say “yes” – which I hope they do — then ask them if they know they had made a planned gift. Their answer may surprise you.

So, what do you think? Are you ready to lose the lingo, or did this blog just put you in a pickle?