5 Ways To Wrap Up Your Year With The Big-Picture In Mind
How to make sure you finish off your year strong - and with intention!
Work gets in the way and then all of a sudden... it's mid-October. The end of the year is HERE and you do not feel ready. So what do you do? Here are a few ways you can make sure you are continuing to focus on your long-term strategic goals and your organization’s sustainability - and not ending up spending your time and energy in the weeds of your day-to-day work. Let me know which you plan to incorporate into your work in the comments below!
Organize a thank-a-thon with your staff and Board.
(Spoiler alert - I suggested this last year, and I'll probably suggest it again next year, too. Saying thank you to those who support you will simply never go out of style!) Not everyone likes to fundraise (even though it is truly a part of everyone’s job!), but a great way to engage your entire team in fundraising is to have them help with the thank you’s to donors. Pick a week in the next month or so and divide up the list of donors who have given in the past 12 months. Draft up a script and ask Board, staff, volunteers, and/or clients/participants to call a few donors. Include in the script a heartfelt thank you and a concrete example of how the dollars have been stewarded since they gave their gift (what has the organization accomplished thanks to the donor’s generosity?)
If people are still hesitant about reaching out to donors, even just to thank them, share with them that simply making thank you phone calls can lead to larger second gifts – given more quickly! (See Bloomerang study here for lots of good data on how thank you phone calls can help retain your donor base.) A thank you can truly be the driver of a future gift and a loyal supporter.
Devote time to analyzing and reflecting on 2021.
To grow your mission-focused work and keep moving strategically forward, you must be willing to objectively analyze and reflect on your past experiences – good and bad. Take the time to look at 2020 and 2021 to help you understand what worked well and what could be improved. Here are some questions to get you started (while these are framed as fundraising-specific questions, they could easily be translated to communications or strategic planning efforts as well.)
A few simple ways to analyze your past efforts:
Pull your budgeted and actual dollars raised and compare them – for the full year, as well as for specific fundraising campaigns.
What budgeted (or unbudgeted) expenses were worth the effort? What were not? Is there anything you did not spend money on in an effort to be cost conscious that could make the effort more successful next year?
Looking at each of these comparisons, what can you contribute to the differences? What worked especially well? What didn’t? Some areas to consider:
How you defined your case for support (an emotional appeal vs operational support?)
How you communicated to your audience (frequency, medium, style of content)
Which stakeholders you pulled in to support or take part in the effort (Board, staff, volunteers, participants, etc)
What type of fundraising effort it was – had you done this before? Or was this a test run to see how it worked for your organization?
What surprised you in your different fundraising efforts from the past year or two? Was there a campaign that wrapped up better than your expectations? What might you have done differently in that project that you hadn’t tried before in other campaigns – aka, how can you replicate that work into your other efforts throughout the year?
Simply taking the time to look back on your past efforts with some time and distance from them can help you gain important perspective in your work.
Spend time planning your first 90 days of 2022.
I believe that successful fundraising depends almost entirely on a well-thought-out and well-executed plan. Yes, the right message is important and striking images can help. But if you don’t start with a solid plan, you will not get very far in your fundraising work. That is why it is vital to begin planning for next year – now! While I’ll have a more in-depth blog on 90-day planning coming soon (you can sign up to the Banyan Bulletin to be notified when that post goes live here), I’ve summarized some tips to help you get started:
When planning the start of your year, think about what the biggest milestones are that you hope to achieve by December 31, 2022. From those milestones, what quarterly “mini-milestones” can you identify to get you closer to your goal each quarter of 2022? Now, with the first mini-milestone in mind, what day-to-day or week-by-week tasks and activities will be crucial in reaching those goals by the end of the year? By starting with the big picture goal you want to end with, you can concretely break down your major initiatives into easily digestible, and easily doable, daily and weekly tasks.
Secondly, now that you have all of the great analysis you completed in the step above, take some time to ensure you are wrapping in those learnings for next year. What changes do you want to make to your workflows or fundraising/communications/strategic efforts next year? Don’t be afraid to add these as reminders in your google, outlook, or paper calendar (whichever system you most often use!) Block out a calendar invite for planning for each of your specific campaigns or objectives and include in the description the major lessons learned/analysis findings from your work in the step above. This way, once the time comes to get started on planning for that campaign, you’ll have all the info readily available at your fingertips.
Find a “quiet week” and commit your time that week to focusing on a strategic project that will propel your organization forward.
While we all often look to the very end of the year (you know, that blissful week between Christmas and New Year’s where half of the office is out on vacation?) to catch up on our busy work and daily tasks, I would suggest looking at this week a bit differently. What is a strategic project you can devote time to that week that may, in more normal weeks, fall to the bottom of the priority list? Give yourself the time and space to focus on that project around the end of the year. Maybe it’s outlining a "major giving" strategy for the first time or planning out meetings and deliverables for your upcoming strategic planning process. Whatever it is, focus on that as your top priority this week. You’ll walk away feeling purposeful and productive – and I bet you’ll even have time to knock out some of those day-to-day tasks, too.
Pick a non-work activity that rejuvenates you and DO IT!
If you work in a nonprofit and have never read the book Rest by Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, stop what you are doing and go read it! This book significantly shifted my perspective on what rest is and how to better incorporate it into my life. In the book, Pang breaks down exactly what purposeful rest is – and how important it is to engage in purposeful rest for our creativity, productivity, and for renewing our sense of purpose in the world. The book defines purposeful or deliberate rest as “rest that is psychologically and physically restorative but also mentally productive. Deliberate rest helps you recover from the stresses and exhaustion of the day, allows new experiences and lessons to settle in your memory, and gives your subconscious mind space to keep working.”
The book breaks down what active rest activities can help you recover from and detach from work. Hint: they do not involve binge-watching Netflix or scrolling social media for hours. Instead, these are activities that are relaxing, mentally absorbing, and physically challenging. What activities come to mind that fit these descriptors? The things you love to do – that help you relax, mentally absorb you, and/or physically challenge you? Whether it’s practicing a musical instrument, your favorite sport, spending time engaging in a creative craft, or just spending time out in nature, commit to yourself that you will use this downtime near the end of the year (or right after January 1!) to treat yourself to some deliberate rest. I promise it will make all the difference.
So there you have it – five ways to make sure you are wrapping up this year with intention! Which one is your favorite? Let me know below!