Focus like a laser beam.
Eons ago, I was a development director for a non-profit in Philadelphia. Once a month, I asked the CEO to meet with me to go over the plan I created. He was a pretty funny guy. Even though he knew I was “all over it” with my plan during the rest of the year, every September he would say to me, “Jeff, this is crunch time. I need you to be focused like a laser beam. No donor will be left unturned.”
That was my clarion call to make sure that I was especially on top of my game, and that I was working the plan for the last quarter of the year. This was also the time of year when I could not allow myself to get distracted by “all the other stuff” that inevitably would come up over the course of the year.
And if you really knew me, you would know that not allowing myself to get distracted was really tough for me… except from October to the end of December.
Here is what I did every September to make sure I heeded my boss’s words.

  1. I reviewed every donor who was “off track” — if there were donors that I had expected to give a gift by this time and they hadn’t yet, I would develop a special plan to talk with them.
  2. I made sure that any “year-end” letters that I was going to send out had a schedule, and that anyone involved in helping me had clear instructions of when, where, and how the letter was going to go out.
  3. By the end of September I made sure that every donor in my portfolio was properly thanked, and that they each had a program report that showed how they made a difference.
  4. I made sure that I set up meetings with donors for my CEO and got them all on his calendar by the first or second week of October. Then, he would meet with donors by no later than the first week of December.
  5. I had both a Thanksgiving and Holiday card picked out, and I assigned staff to address and sign them for donors by the second week of October.
  6. At the beginning of October, I scheduled a staff meeting where the entire staff met, and I gave a report on where we were financially. Then I set the expectation for everyone about what was going to happen in the last quarter of the year. You would not believe how appreciative the staff were to have this type of communication.
  7. I met with key members of our organization who I knew had connections with our major donors, and we went over a “game plan” to have them help me thank, steward and solicit those donors — this helped set expectations for staff time outside their normal day.
  8. The team I worked with also created a “last week of the year strategy” (this was before email) – so we had a calling strategy to any donors who had either committed to make a gift, had yet to make a gift or who we thought could do one more gift before the year end. (These days, I would have a calling and email strategy set up for that last week. You should probably consider sending out 3 emails as reminders for the entire week, and make it really easy to make a gift on your website.)

Those were some of the ways I remained “laser-focused” on my plan in the last quarter. I had to put in some long hours, but I’m telling you it paid off in the end. It felt good in January when the numbers came in to know that our team did everything we could to work our plans.
Then by the end of January, I was able to report back to staff and donors the results of everyone’s hard work. It was extremely satisfying. You can experience the same with your caseload.
P.S.  If you need MORE strategies, inspiration and ideas for how to make your year-end goals, click here and sign up for our online class “Making Your Year End Goals,” starting September 26th. You don’t want to miss it! It’s chock full of great ideas and practical applications to help you succeed.