New year ahead!
2016 is just days away. It is not too early to start planning how you’ll be successful in the coming calendar year.
Managing your important donor relationships is critical during this last month of this calendar year. Don’t spend so much time planning that it takes away from this work. But do take a few minutes to get these ideas percolating in some part of your brain, so that you’ll be prepared for the serious and needed planning you must do when the new year comes.
Here are five areas that you should be thinking about:

  1. Who are the ten donors you need to really focus on in the new year? The exact number of donors is not important. The point is that there are donors on your caseload right now who can deliver substantial value to your organization next year if you (a) treat them properly, and (b) spend dedicated and strategic time with them. But who are they? Do you know? Take time to think about this.
  2. How are you going to create better donor offers? By “better” offers I mean that you have successfully described compelling need in your offer and have provided a believable Most of the donor offers we see do not adequately describe the need. And if they do, many aren’t described in a compelling way – reflecting a lack of attention to the human impact of the need. Read our white paper on Transporting Your Donor to the Scene for more ideas on how to do this better. The second part of a good donor offer is providing a believable solution. Many of the solutions we see are just not believable. They lack detail. They lack practicality. They lack logic that the proposed solution will actually solve the problem. Take a look at the solutions your organization is promising. Are they believable?
  3. How can you build stronger and more supportive relationships with program and finance? These two divisions of your organization hold the key to your ability to create outstanding donor offers. They will also be the biggest internal block to your success. Program can deliver the need they intend to address; and they can deliver the solution. Finance can deliver all the numbers you need. But in most organizations we work with, the relationships between major gifts, program and finance are either broken or severely damaged. There is a lot of suspicion and skepticism. That is why there is important work to do here. How are your relationships with the good folks in these areas? I suggest you need to spend some quality time with the decision makers in these areas. Win them over. Educate them about how their work, in supporting you, results in funds to run program. You might think they know about this like they should. They don’t – believe me. You need to spend time with them to educate, break down barriers and make them part of creating above-average donor offers that are compelling, and solutions that are believable.
  4. How can you improve in serving your donors’ interests and passions? This is central to what you do in major gifts; miss this one and you have failed. Or if you fail to actively manage it you will, over time, drift away from the donor and towards the money. That is why, at least once a month, it is good to ask yourself: “How am I managing my donors’ interests and passions?” Just stop and check to make sure you are controlling the natural tendency to be more interested in the money than you are in serving the donors.
  5. What are you personally going to do about the fears and concerns that block your success? I talked about this in a recent post about getting over your personal hurdles. Here is the reality of life on this topic. We all have fears. We all have blocks. We all have certain quantities of irrationality in our view of life or in our decision-making process. This is life. If anyone tells you they have it all together, they are in absolute denial and they lack self-awareness. I talk to several people a week, from all walks of life, with different levels of responsibility, who share their hearts about where they are in their jobs and their professional and personal journey. And the one common theme in all of those talks is that we all are in the same boat. It is the human condition. So rather than fret about this (as in “am I abnormal or what?”), why not just embrace this reality as a fact of life and use your time and energy in more productive activity? Use that energy to look at your fears, hurdles and concerns and figure out what you are going to do about them. That is a good use of your time and energy. So make a mental list of what those blocks are, then purpose to deal with and make progress on them in the new year. But don’t set yourself up for failure by saying that you will rid yourself of this fear or that hurdle, because you likely won’t. Your goal should be to make a little bit of progress on each one. By the way, you can’t process this material by yourself. If you keep this a solo journey, all the help you will get will be from yourself. Look how helpful that has been so far! So find a good trusted friend to walk with you on this journey. Just so you know, Jeff and I each have a long list of stuff we are working on. And we talk about it regularly.

So file these five points away in your brain and let them cook over the next four weeks. Then, as you have time, start making a plan in each of these areas. A good plan is a road map to success.
Read the full series:

  1. Year-end Strategy
  2. Planning for the New Year
  3. Refresh Your Caseload