Think Small
and Think Big

Ann Fitzgerald President AC Fitzgerald author

Ann C. Fitzgerald, President

Nonprofit professionals know that many small details add up to overall success in their fundraising programs.

The relatively quiet month of August is a perfect time to concentrate on improving these “small”—but not inconsequential—components of your programs. For example:

  • Clean up your donor database and files: Take the time to review names and addresses and update mailing lists as necessary.
  • Research current donors: Gather new information on the foundations, corporations, or individuals who support you. What do you know about the recent philanthropy of your top 20 or 50 supporters? What other information will help you successfully solicit a gift?
  • Research new prospects: Keep the fundraising “pipeline” full by identifying new prospects. For example, determine which foundations are funding organizations similar to your own.
  • Review deadlines: Check due dates for foundation proposals and reports to ensure that you are prepared for upcoming deadlines.
  • Schedule communication pieces: Update your fall schedule of all donor communications including direct mail pieces, newsletters, and emails.

August may also be a time when you can “think big” and consider long-term ideas and trends. Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Invite outside speakers to luncheon discussions. The speaker could be a colleague at another nonprofit organization or from another industry. I once met the CEO of a major retail corporation who invited leaders from the nonprofit world to meet with the company’s senior management. His thinking was that you should not limit yourself to your own industry when looking for good ideas.
  • Review your fundraising programs to identify trends. For example, from which sources do you derive most of your income? In which areas have you experienced the most growth? Evaluate what this means for the future.
  • Create a book club to discuss new books in fundraising or philanthropy. You can try to cover several books or simply select one book and assign a different chapter to each staff member to report on. You can also meet over lunch to discuss articles from the fundraising periodicals that you have piled up in your office.
  • Take the time to list your organization’s accomplishments for the year. Compile your activities, events and outcomes, and consider how these reflect your overall mission and message. Ideally, you will develop a better case for support. In addition, this document will be helpful if you distribute annual or semi-annual reports.
  • Spend a half day discussing new ideas. The nonprofit world is a dynamic and innovative sector that lends itself to new ideas in fundraising. Take some time to focus solely on new ideas such as e-philanthropy, planned giving programs or new philanthropic vehicles such as donor-advised funds.

With many people traveling, August is a difficult time to arrange meetings with donors. But don’t let the lack of donor activity be an excuse to take a break from fundraising. Instead, use the time wisely to “think small” and “think big.”

Ann C. Fitzgerald is Founder and President of AC Fitzgerald, using her decades of experience in fundraising, management, leadership, and sales to help nonprofits build their capacity and achieve success. She is a sought-after speaker, writer, and advisor.

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