Don’t let one more minute of this new year go by before you cross off the following five things in your major gifts caseload management:

  1. Review your caseload and make donor additions and deletions.
  2. Look at each donor on your caseload and review how they did in 2021.
  3. Analyze how well your donor strategies worked (or didn’t).
  4. Do a critical review of how effective you were in your use of time.
  5. Take a hard look at how well you thanked and reported back to each donor.
These first months of 2022 are critical in caseload management.

Many non-profits around the world operate on a fiscal year – a 12-month period specifically designed by accountants and managers to make things easier for themselves.

I don’t begrudge the move to manage this work at a time that is convenient, but I’m concerned that the fiscal year thing gets MGOs and their managers misaligned with how donors think and act.

Here’s what I mean.

Donors consider their gifts in terms of calendar years. It could be because of the tax benefits, or because of the giving season around the holidays, especially in North America and Europe. Or it could be that a year ending and a new year beginning is a good way to do one’s personal budget and plan for expected donations.

This is why January and February are so critical to caseload planning – because there are lessons to be learned from what just happened last year, and there are opportunities to be pursued in the new year.

If you haven’t done so already, make sure you do the following three things:
  1. Get rid of fiscal year thinking. I don’t mean totally ignore it, because there ARE goals to reach, etc. But what I do mean is get into the donor’s head and view the relationship you have with them in the light of a calendar year.
  2. If you haven’t done it already, collect your 2021 data. In some organizations, the 2021 books are closed by the second week of January. In other organizations, it’s as far out as the second week of February! I’ve seen it even later than that, which is alarming. But here’s the point. Right now, before reading another word, put a reminder on your schedule to find out when the books close in your organization and how soon you can get the info you need on how your caseload donors performed in 2021. This is important.
  3. Set expectations with management. You’ll need to spend some time doing 2021 caseload analysis and 2022 caseload planning. It will take time to check off the five “must do’s” I’m tasking you with. Get management on board with this plan now so that you’ll have the quality time you need to do this important work.

Jeff and I find way too many MGOs and their managers just sailing past January without a care in the world, almost as if the donors had bought into their fiscal year thing. It’s interesting to watch. It’s also disturbing because a lot of retooling of caseloads, strategy, and resource allocation must happen in these first months of the calendar year. And as I write this, we are already in February, so I hope you’ve already started this work (if the books in your organization are closed).

So, if you’re doing this work already, good for you. If you haven’t, it’s time to get started. And be urgent about it. Because your success this year depends on you getting this right.


This post originally appeared on the Passionate Giving Blog on January 9, 2013.