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The Miracle of Fundamentals

Okay, so the past few years have been bumpy and mind-numbing. I continually believe, however, that the glass is half-full. People are resilient and will get it together and move on. I don’t believe that is Pollyanna. Donors have not quit giving. Although terribly overshadowed by mega-gifts, smaller donors have made a comeback.

The path forward for nonprofits is full of opportunities that are open to every organization. Closing out 2021 in a strong position and having a plan for 2022 will make a huge difference in fulfilling your organization’s mission. That is truly what is important – fulfilling the mission – providing the services and programs that impact the communities the organization serves.

What will be most critical in closing out 2021?

Following are fundamentals that can realistically be accomplished by any organization:

• Clean up your donor management database. Run an NCOA. Remove duplicates. Make sure your donors who have passed away are no longer receiving mail from you. Run your LYBUNT report and create a strategy to reach out to them in the final months of the year. A clean database will result in your outreach to donors and prospects being more successful.

• Make your Fall special event the best ever and truly make it special. Play outside the box. Create something unexpected. We have all had enough with same-o, same-o. Consider ways you can make your attendees feel fantastic at the event or virtually. Do follow-up with all of the attendees. Let them know you appreciated their being there and being supportive. Gratitude goes a very long way.

• Do a year-end appeal that touches the hearts of your donors. There is a lot of talk about storytelling – because it works! It is really hard to argue with success. Include in your appeal a story that is informational, heart-warming, and authentic.

• Have board members call donors – not just the big donors – all the donors. Your $10 a month donor could be a $100 a month donor or a $5 million legacy donor. Saying thank you is the most important activity your board members can pursue. As previously stated, gratitude goes a very long way.

• Run your donor retention numbers. Use the Fundraising Fitness Test available at You do not have to be a member of AFP to use this tool. It is worth your time to do this and will help you create fundraising strategies and the fundraising plan for 2022.

• Write a sustainable, strategic fundraising plan for 2022 based upon donor analytics. Your donors are the heart of your fundraising program. Before writing your plan, understand who your donors are, which programs and services your donors enthusiastically support, and what fundraising methods do your donors respond to – direct mail, email, events, or peer-to-peer appeals. Knowing that information will enable you to write fundraising strategies that will drive the formulation of your fundraising plan.

A study conducted in 2013 by the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund and CompassPoint Nonprofit Services demonstrated that: “More than one in five (23%) – and 31% of organizations with operating budgets under $1 million – have no fundraising plan.” In today’s precarious fundraising climate, imagine starting 2022 with no plan. There is a quote often attributed to Benjamin Franklin, “failure to plan is planning to fail.” As Ben Franklin was an industrious fundraiser, he definitely understood the need to plan. The Fundamentals, like planning, create miracles.

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