Wouldn’t it be awesome if you ended 2024 feeling really proud that you learned something new that made you more successful AND that made you happier?!

Now I know it may feel ridiculously early to be thinking about the end of 2024. But if we’re going to grow, learn, and stretch beyond our comfort zones – that takes time and dedication. Besides, learning a new skill builds confidence, improves your mental health, and makes you happier, so there’s no reason to wait on getting started.

Today, I encourage you to choose one new thing that you want to learn this year that will make you a better fundraiser.

Maybe it’s just me, but when I was a fundraiser, the culture was not one of vulnerability and openness about what we are good at and where we needed to learn and grow. It was as though each fundraiser was supposed to be born fully developed and skillful in every way! And there was guilt and shame around not knowing something. I would love to change that paradigm to one where it’s normal that all of us have our areas of strength and areas where we need to grow. And it should be safe to talk about both of those things. We are human after all.

While we’re thinking about your opportunities for growth in the year ahead, let’s do a little exercise together. Below are several categories that impact your ability to be successful in your work as a fundraiser. For this exercise, pick one category you want to focus on this year and then take some time to process that topic and develop a plan with the questions below.

Opportunities for Growth

1 – Building the right system and structure for a successful major gifts program

To build an effective system and structure around your major gifts program, focus on the following:

  • Ensure your donors on your caseload are qualified. (“Qualified” meaning they’ve indicated that they are interested in a two-way relationship with you and your organization.)
  • Tier your donors so that you know where to focus your time for maximum return.
  • Create an individual communication plan for each donor on your caseload.


2 – Developing communication skills that build trust

To develop your communication skills so that you’re actively building trust with your donors, focus on the following:

  • Be confident and prepared when making initial calls to get to know donors.
  • Ask open-ended questions to learn your donors’ interests and passions.
  • Use Permission-Based Asking with donors when asking for a gift.


3 – Improving collaboration with others at work

To improve how you collaborate with your fundraising colleagues and other departments at work, focus on the following:

  • Help educate your manager or leadership team and how to better support your work and provide accountability.
  • Collaborate with events, board members, planned giving, etc, on a donor ask.
  • Build trust and understanding of what you need from Program or Marketing to better meet donor needs.


4 – Developing work habits that will help you be more successful

To build working habits that help you organize your day and prevent burnout, focus on the following:

  • Prioritize tasks and focus on your donors as your number one priority.
  • Bring balance to your day with exercise, rest, and things that refill your bucket.
  • Improve your tracking and reporting on donor moves.


Next steps…

Now that you’ve selected which category you’d like to focus on, spend some time journaling and answering the questions below to help you identify your motivation and make a plan.

Questions for Reflection & Growth

  • How would my life be different if I… [insert skill you want to develop]?
  • Where do I tend to get stuck or feel less confident in this area?
  • What did I learn from reading the materials provided above, or from other resources, that will help me?
  • What would it look like for me to work on improving my skills? [Be specific on day/time/approach]
  • Who should I talk to about this to ensure I have accountability?

And lastly, please don’t make this another way to beat yourself up and feel badly! Remember that you have a lot of incredible skills and abilities you’re already bringing to the table. You are going to have starts and stops and even forget about it for a while. If you do, that’s fine – just come back and try again. Be kind to yourself and take one small step at a time. It’s the small steps we take over time that can have the biggest impact.