New Year, New Thinking: 11 resolutions to keep in 2011


Already broken some resolutions you made year-end 2010? Here are 11 resolutions your organization can keep that contain practical action steps to address the unique challenges and economic environment facing philanthropy today. Now is still a perfect time to set these resolutions in motion. Remember, better results may require new thinking and action.

Resolution # 1 - Review Your Data Systems

Information is power and your data systems provide critical input for your strategic, marketing, fundraising and investment decisions. Good data is also essential as foundations, corporate giving programs and major donors have increased the focus of their giving decisions on measurable outcomes and metrics. Do your data capabilities meet your needs now and in the near future, or is it time for a system upgrade? Before upgrading, determine whether the investment will be worth the capacity you will gain. What additional information about donors, clients and other key constituents would be helpful to your operations? Remember to look at all your existing sources, including direct mail base, website traffic analytics, e-mail responses and on-line donations.

Resolution #2 - Seek New Ways to Collaborate

Collaboration is a versatile tool to deal with the rising number of new nonprofits, the growing competition for charitable dollars, and the renewed focus by funders on consolidation, efficiency, and maximizing social impact. Using collaboration, nonprofits can create resource efficiencies through out-sourcing back-office functions, generate greater awareness and dollars through joint fundraising, or improve client services clients through joint programming. Institutional collaboration by foundations and corporate giving programs can help dwindling funding go farther and create more powerful and positive change on social issues.

Resolution #3 - Create Cultivation Plans for Your Grantors

In the face of tightened government and foundation funding, the need for diversification of funding sources and increased competition for grant funding, churning out more well written grant proposals is not enough. Start now to develop a cultivation and stewardship plan for existing and potential grantors, a critical component of your overall fundraising plan. Acknowledge grants with a thank you and submit follow-up reports on time; make connections with foundation prospects before you write a proposal to gain a greater understanding of a foundation’s mission and priorities and to gauge initial interest in your project; continually send communications regarding your successes and impact; and personally invite the grantor to events, tours or program activities that reflect your mission. Remember, cultivation of new grant prospects, like any donor, takes time.

Resolution #4 Integrate Communication Channels with Consistent Branding

Most nonprofits have already taken small steps into the world of new media by either retooling their website to better articulate mission and message, adding on-line donation capability, or starting two-way conversations with supporters through Face Book, blogging or tweeting. Now is the time to take a fresh look at your overall messaging in both traditional (e.g. direct mail, newsletters, annual appeals) and new media outlets (website, e-mail and social media). You don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Simply review and re-purpose your existing content so your message is powerful, yet consistent throughout all of your communication channels.

Resolution #5 - Keep Your Eye on Mobile Applications

For the tech savvy, 2011 trends include the growing use of mobile applications and mobile giving (i.e. donations by text messaging using mobile devices), especially among younger constituents who are never without their cell phones. A mobile application may include optimizing a version of your regular site, creating a special mobile site, or a special application for mobile users. Before choosing an application format, understand the likely content needs of your mobile user (e.g. contact information, making a donation or the location of an event). For cost effectiveness, these campaigns can be set up through The Mobil Foundation or mGive and are most successful as a call-toaction at a fundraising, sporting or other event.

Resolution #6 - Enhance Opportunities for Skills-Based Volunteering

Volunteerism continues to increase given continued unemployment of skilled employees, a nation-wide emphasis on community service and the retired boomer population. Review your current volunteer programs and determine ways to enhance or create more asset building opportunities for volunteers. Engaging and rewarding volunteer experiences provides your organization with the skilled expertise it needs and are an important gateway to building sustainable capacity through increased community support, donor dollars and future board members and leaders.

Resolution #7 - Create Individual Board Member Plans

Board satisfaction, engagement and commitment require attention and cultivation. Create strategic individual Board Member plans early in the year to keep your Board ontrack and form the basis for year-end performance evaluations. The Board Chair can meet with individual Board Members to conduct a “check-in” on overall experience and satisfaction with board and committee work, including areas for improvement; and to set annual goals on such issues as committee assignments, financial commitment to overall fundraising goals, willingness to participate and/or chair specific events or projects (e.g. hosting a dinner party), or making introductions or providing names of individuals and businesses to cultivate as potential donors, board members and volunteers.

Resolution #8 - Get Strategic

Get strategic at both the organizational and committee levels. The Board should assess organizational short and/or long term strategic issues that require attention. Examples include succession planning for management; a Board development retreat or restructuring; staff satisfaction and advancement opportunities; or mission review in response to external environmental factors. Standing committees also need to be strategic by establishing annual goals and a working plan for implementation. The plan may require recruiting more manpower from the Board or, if by-laws permit, non-board members. At a minimum, the work plan should be coordinated with the full Board to ensure committee goals are consistent with the overall strategies and priorities of the organization and there are adequate resources budgeted for implementation. We also suggest that committee chairs report their progress at scheduled Board meetings and convene an internal year-end meeting to report achievements and establish priorities for the following year.

Resolution #9 - Segment Your Cultivation and Stewardship Efforts

You may have a budgeted fundraising target and an annual fundraising plan for 2011, but you now need to assign ownership and develop segmented action plans for acquiring, cultivating and stewarding donors. Think about how many new donors you need to meet this year’s goal and “who” (board members, volunteers, existing donors or staff) will bring you names, open doors and make those introductions. The plan should also focus on “how” and “who” will help cultivate your loyal donors and raise them to the next level. Finally, include ways to steward your existing donors through informing, thanking and including them in special programming, tours and events.

Resolution #10 - Learn From Your Competition

Pay attention to what similar organizations are doing in your service area with programming, services, marketing and events. Are there opportunities to have greater impact in your service area through collaboration, improve and/or revise your own programs and services to avoid duplication of efforts, engage in joint fundraising that is synergistic and mutually beneficial, or simply create cost efficiencies? Having the courage to see what your competitors do well can empower you to enhance your organization’s own point of difference and value added.

Resolution #11- Institutionalize Gratitude

Thanking constituents is not new, but we suggest that gratitude be institutionalized throughout the year for all individuals and organizations that sustain your work. Remember to consistently communicate your gratitude to staff, board members, funders, donors, volunteers, vendors and media throughout all your communication channels.

We hope these resolutions jump start your organization with new ways to confront today’s challenges and meet 2011 goals. If you don’t have the manpower to implement all we have suggested, focus on your priorities and pick one or two to begin. …. The countdown to 2012 has already begun!