Five things to do this year.
Don’t let one more minute of this new calendar year go by before you take steps to do the following five things as relates your major gift work:

  1. Review your caseload and make donor additions and deletions.
  2. Look at each donor on your caseload and review how he or she did last year.
  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.

I am going to explore each of these areas in the next five posts on this blog.
But first I want to address why January is such a critical month in caseload management.
Many of the non-profits around the world operate on a fiscal year – a twelve month period specifically designed by accountants and managers to make things easier for themselves.
I don’t begrudge the move to manage work at a time that is convenient, but I am concerned that the fiscal year thing gets MGOs and their managers on a different schedule from how their donors think and act.
Here’s what I mean.
Donors think in terms of calendar years.  It could be because of tax benefits or the giving season, 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 home budget.  Who knows the reason?  But one thing I do know is that donors think in terms of calendar years.
By the time they reach December, what happened those last twelve months is over and now it is time to start a new year.
This is why January is 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.
So before we get into the list of five things you must do at the beginning of this calendar year, I would like you to 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 donors’ heads and view the relationships you have with them in the light of a calendar year.
  2. Start collecting your data from last year.  In some organizations, the previous year’s 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 last year.  This is important.
  3. Set expectations with management.  You will need to spend some time to do last year’s caseload analysis and this year’s caseload planning.  It will take time to do the five “must do’s” I am asking you to do.  Get management on board with this now so you have the quality time 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 really bought into their fiscal year thing.  It’s interesting to watch.  It is also disturbing because a lot of caseload strategy and use of time re-tooling must happen this month.
So, get ready to roll up your sleeves and take a fresh look at how you are doing things.  It will be good for you, your donors and the organization.
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