18 Resolutions for the small nonprofit organization in 2011

December 29, 2010

  1. Resolve to master the art of persuasive copy-writing.  No no no, not your typical ‘non-profit speak,’ but persuasive copywriting.  Watch infomercials (I’m serious).  Take a creative writing course.  Read any one of Tom Ahern’s books.  As you read what you’ve written, ask yourself “would I care?”
  2. Develop systems.  Within your systems, establish small daily or weekly habits – such as 30 minutes daily of foundation research or spending 30 minutes on the phone with donors.
  3. Quit copying your peers.
  4. Learn how to use email effectively.
  5. Resolve to leave your comfort zone.   Before signing up for another AFP workshop, consider attending an email marketing seminar or even a Dale Carnegie training.
  6. Establish the processes to build relationships with grant funders – just as you do your donors.  A declination is an opportunity for further communication.
  7. Integrate your communications.  Online, direct mail, email, social media – it needs to be cohesive.
  8. Via Tom Ahern:  “Be different. Be fun. Be authentic.”
  9. There’s more to social media than updating your Facebook status or posting blast tweets on Twitter.  Learn how to use social media to engage.
  10. Excel is not a database.  Lose it.  If you’re keeping your data in Excel, know your criteria for a database, evaluate three providers and select one.  Make sure that training and support are key components.
  11. Spend money on training.  Yes, when I was a nonprofit employee, with one exception, none of my employers paid for any training.  Guess what?  I bought books and attended seminars on my own dime.  Invest in yourself.
  12. Start a monthly giving program.  This one’s a no-brainer – need I say more?
  13. Educate your board on fundraising.  This one doesn’t involve hiring a one-time ‘board trainer’ for your next retreat.  It involves developing a – dare I say fun? – culture of fundraising within your board.  One very simple way to start is by sharing a clip from the Movie Mondays series Top 10 Best Movies for Helping Board Members at the beginning of every board meeting.
  14. Take a hula hoop to work.  When the stress gets to be too much incorporate a little joy and movement into your day.
  15. Learn how to re-purpose content for different donor communications channels.
  16. Communicate more.  Yes, I know that studies consistently show that donors are turned off by organizations who over-communicate or over-solicit.  Trust me, the small, community-based nonprofit organization rarely falls into that category.
  17. Take charge and take responsibility.
  18. Say thank you.  Again and again and again.  And again.  Create a stewardship system and put it in writing.

Want more?  Check out Simple Development Systems: Successful fundraising for the one-person shop, the only book written specifically for the “small shop” nonprofit organization!

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Erica Holthausen December 29, 2010 at 6:42 am

What a great list! I am particularly fond of the idea of bringing a hula hoop to work — in part because it’s quirky, but also because it recognizes a fundamental reality: play is a simple and fun way to relieve stress. And a hula hoop doesn’t require anyone else to participate . . . unlike a massive, office-wide pillow fight!

Dan Rodriguez December 31, 2010 at 9:03 pm

Home run list of resolutions. I love your “silver lining” approach in every situation or every person!

Pamela Grow January 3, 2011 at 1:08 pm

… although I do like the pillow fight suggestion Erica!

Thanks Dan!

Gail Perry January 4, 2011 at 6:27 am

Love, love, love your resolutions! Maybe we should remake them into “habits of highly effective nonprofits!” : ) Thanks Pamela for your excellent insight!

Maureen Carruthers January 4, 2011 at 8:45 am

This goes with #5 but I would add “be willing to experiment.” You’ll never know what resonates best with your donors until you try new things. Will some of those experiments fail? Only if you are doing it right.

Gayle L. Gifford, ACFRE January 4, 2011 at 10:21 am

Great list.
Here’s two more that I find small nonprofits miss:
1. Do the math. You can calculate the number of gifts at what level, the number of renewals, the number of prospects to reach, etc. etc. that it will take to reach your fundraising goal. Then you’ll know what it will take to have a chance to be successful.
2. Follow up with donors who haven’t responded. (Here’s where having a good database comes in). A small organization we know raised an additional $40,000 a year just by following up with members who either hadn’t renewed in the year.

Pamela Grow January 4, 2011 at 11:59 am

Excellent additions Gayle! Thank you.

Sandy Rees January 4, 2011 at 12:52 pm

Great list Pam! I totally agree with you about investing in yourself. It’s important to do!


Marc A. Pitman, FundraisingCoach.com January 4, 2011 at 7:28 pm

LOVE IT! These are great!

I’d add watch charity:water’s founder Scott Harrison’s talk “The Power of Simple Messages.” Then figure out how to apply it to your cause! http://bit.ly/fMlhBn

Betsy Baker January 4, 2011 at 8:00 pm

This list should be mandatory reading for smal nonprofits! Thanks, Pamela, for an enlightening and amusing post. 🙂

Pamela Grow January 4, 2011 at 8:33 pm

An excellent idea Marc – thanks for the addition!

Sherry Truhlar January 10, 2011 at 8:26 am

Pamela, what a great challenge to put out there. I love it and I know nonprofits will be successful from taking the challenge.

I want to add on to #3 -Quit copying your peers. Get strategic!! Just because a technique worked for the folks down the street doesn’t mean it will work for your nonprofit. I see this often in benefit auctions. Committees want to copy what sold last month without considering the audience differences, the timing elements or the price points. Know your audience might be another way to say “Quit copying your peers”.

Estrella Rosenberg January 10, 2011 at 3:05 pm

GREAT list, Pam! I really love this – going to link this inside the 501 Mission Place forums tonight to make sure all our members see this!

As a follow-up to “Spend money on training” I would add: spend time on training.

I’m in the same camp as you – professional development in the nonprofit world is almost always a personal responsibility, but if you’re not able to budget or plan for all of the opportunities to learn you’re interested in – what you are able to budget is time.

It may take some curating and some energy on google search, but there’s a plethora of free blogs, articles, webinars, e-books, etc that can really help you develop professionally. Not all are fantastic or worthwhile – that’s where the curation comes in, but it’s absolutely worth it to invest the time.

Feeling like your to-do list is too long and filled with too many mission oriented tasks is no excuse…you might be missing a seminar that teaches you a tool that cuts the time you spend on your to-do list in half!

Thanks again for this fantastic post, Pam!

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