It’s a new year, which means new energy and new life… let’s encourage each other to keep moving forward so we’re always getting better and more enlightened about our work.
What do you say?
I’d love for you to start out 2023 with a renewed sense of hope about what you can achieve as a non-profit leader. To help you think about what that could look like, here is my “wish list” for you.
Yes, there are all kinds of reasons to fear the new year: continued dire warnings of inflation, a looming recession or stagflation. Experts say you can’t hire good people in the non-profit sector, and you will have to keep up with technology or you will be left behind.
But you don’t have to succumb to fear. Those organizations that don’t waiver in their investment all along the donor pipeline, who stick with their plans, who double down on expanding their one-to-some and one-to-one strategies with donors will weather any storm. If you allow yourself to be creative in your hiring, think outside our sector for good people, and train them well, you will be surprised at the quality of people wanting to work for you.
And don’t be afraid of technology. Embrace it. The new techniques in AI and modeling just makes our work with mid and major donors much better as you can really focus on developing relationships with donors that want to relate to your organization.
This is the year to take calculated risks. The mood, however, seems to be to “hunker down.” Richard and I would say, now is actually the time to invest in new things. It may sound self-serving, fine. But this is the year to really invest in a strong mid and major gift program. Building or strengthening your one-to-one fundraising program is one of the most important things you can do right now. This is going to offset any reduced revenue from your lower dollar acquisition and cultivation program.
Speaking of… consider outsourcing your direct-response fundraising program. For the life of me I cannot understand why non-profits hire internal staff to do something that good outside agencies can do for you. Our industry has direct-response fundraising down to a science. You don’t need a bunch of internal staff doing that work. What you need internal staff for is to manage your mid and major gift programs. Hire, train, and nurture good people to build strong relationships with your donors.
If we had a magic wand, we’d wave it over every non-profit leader so they would invest in, train, and value good management. This is the bane of the non-profit industry. We’re great at delivering mission, but we fail at valuing the people delivering the mission. My wish for non-profits in 2023 is that leaders would see the value of management. This is one of the main reasons Veritus exists – to come alongside good non-profits so we can help train, coach, co-manage, and encourage frontline fundraisers to be successful.
Align Development Team Structure with the Donor Pipeline
In 2022, Veritus helped an unprecedented number of non-profits realign the structure of their development department in concert with the donor pipeline. That meant aligning all strategies along the source of revenue (based on individual donors versus institutional donors). It meant keeping those strategies (direct-response acquisition, cultivation, mid-level, major gifts and planned giving, back-office processing) under one Fundraising and Development leader, with other areas like marketing, branding, events under separate leadership.
What a difference this makes. This allows you to invest in each stage of the donor pipeline properly. A development leader can bring the directors of direct-response, mid-level, major, and planned giving to work together in new ways instead of working in siloes. Our wish in 2023 is that you look at how your development team is configured and align it to the donor pipeline so you can truly be donor-centered.
Continue and Expand Your DEI Work
If you want to be a better, more effective non-profit leader, then you need to create an environment with a diverse staff where everyone feels safe, secure, and has the ability to soar. There were a lot of good changes initiated by non-profit leaders after the tragedy of the George Floyd murder in 2020. People began to re-think what it meant to be a workplace that invests, celebrates, and puts into practice true DEI efforts. My fear is that many non-profits are losing that energy. My wish is that you would double your efforts in this area. Stay committed, and move through any uncomfortableness to have these tough conversations in 2023.
Take Care of Your People and Yourself
Everyone has read about staff burnout. As a non-profit leader in 2023, make it a priority to make sure your organization is staffed properly. That means no one feels the need to work 60-hour weeks. Make it a priority to encourage people to take time off. And, while you’re at it, model that behavior yourself and really do it too! My wish for you this year is that your non-profit will become a model on how to build staff morale. This happens when you give people the space to thrive, and provide what they need to succeed. The result will be a more effective team, delivering more mission.
Look, there are just too many outside negative forces coming at us each day. Instead of being part of that negativity, my wish for you in 2023 that you’ll allow for more celebrations. Celebrate mission milestones. Applaud successes in Program, Fundraising, and Finance. And make sure to cheer on the people who carry out your mission every day. Investing in celebration helps to create an environment that energizes your staff in their daily work.
These are my 7 wishes for you as a non-profit leader. Get ready to be bold, courageous, empathetic, compassionate, and inspiring this year. Your people and your mission deserve that from you.