Top 3 Reader Favorites from 2013

In case you missed any of them and to be a bit reflective as we proceed into 2014, I wanted to share the top three posts that were written last year.  They cover a few of the different areas and concepts that were discussed here on The Good Steward last year and I hope that you find them helpful in your efforts this year.

  1. How One Web Search Led to a $20,000 Gift
    I shared how some smart web searching led me to a strong prospect for a fundraising effort focused on I-House’s retiring Board Chairman and the true serendipity that led to a $20,000 contribution. The title alone seems to have grabbed readers’ attention!
  2. Are You Making the Time to be Creative?
    I wrote this post while at the 2013 AFP International Conference after an especially insightful talk by John Legend. Please feel free to share in the comments how you keep those creative juices flowing!
  3. Telling Your Nonprofit’s Story in the 990 Report
    This post provides some quick food for thought around how fundraising staff can collaborate with their colleagues in the Finance Office to better tell their organization’s story through the annual 990 charitable filing.



The Importance of Professional Development in Fundraising

After attending the Association of Donor Relations Professionals New York City Regional Workshop last Friday, I am feeling a bit refreshed and full of new ideas to try in the next year.  It’s one of my favorite times of the year, as the conference season is getting under way.  I say it all the time and will say it again — fundraisers need professional development opportunities (and many other things) to stay sane and effective.

There are many reasons that professional development is critical for fundraisers, but here are my top three reasons:

  1. Time to recharge — We all can benefit from some time away from the office, which allows us to see the bigger picture and return to our work refocused.
  2. Source of new ideas and inspiration — Conferences and workshops are always full of the latest and greatest ideas and strategies.  As Lynne Wester reminded us at the ADRP Regional Workshop, we can all learn from each other and borrow ideas  that will help our fundraising efforts.
  3. Expand your network — Being able to pick up the phone or send a quick e-mail to a few fellow fundraisers with a question or issue is absolutely priceless.  Professional development events are the best place to make these connections and you should capitalize upon these opportunities to meet and get to know your colleagues.

What professional development events and associations have been useful in your fundraising career?  What events will you be attending this year?

For your information, I’ll be attending AFP’s International Conference in Vancouver next month (which I’ll be writing more about very soon), the New York Philanthropic Planning Symposium in May and Fundraising Day in New York this June.  I look forward to sharing some of the lessons I glean from these upcoming events with you.

Leaving Your Mark As a Fundraiser

While completing a major stewardship mailing last week, I recalled that I needed to document the production process for this mailing (one that I first introduced last year to provide an annual report of sorts to all of our donors).

As someone who is a tireless cheerleader for the fundraising profession, I know firsthand why it is important to document these processes and assure continuity for our organizations.

Institutional memory is a critical part of the foundation of all organizations, but especially for non-profits and most especially for the development office in non-profit organizations.  When this memory is lost through staff turnover, the organization’s fundraising message can get muddled, relationships that were being actively managed can be squandered and overall fundraising efforts can become stalled indefinitely.

Smooth transitions among fundraising staff can significantly reduce the amount of time that a new staffer needs to get up to speed with the usual workings of an organization.  In my current role, I have been the beneficiary of well-documented work processes and it has made all the difference, especially when it came to executing major mailings and reports for the first time.  In addition to documenting processes, I have found it helpful to remain available for your successor (ideally in situations where you have left your position amicably) as he/she begins to pick up where you left things.  After leaving a past position, I willingly responded to queries from my successor for months and did so out of respect for the organization and my contributions to that fundraising program; now everyone is not as over the top as I am and I don’t expect them to be, but these realities of transitions are rarely discussed.

I sincerely believe that it is a vital part of our duty to our organizations as fundraising professionals to do all that we can to assure that they can go on in the future without us; I believe that the best way to assure this is to leave a clear record of how things were done in the past.

How are you documenting your work in your current position?  Have you benefited from your predecessors documenting their work processes?


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Guest Post: Workplace Inspiration — In the Shadows

By Jen Price

During a recent #smNPchat on Twitter (chat for those working for or with smaller nonprofit organizations), the discussion covered strategies for fundraisers during the slower summer months.

Slow summer months?  WHAT?  Summer is my busiest season, though this is somewhat by choice.  I like to focus my larger scale efforts during times when not as many organizations are asking. Yes, I miss some of the vacationers.  We more than make up for it with the exposure we get and because very few nonprofits are asking or creating awareness during the summer in our community.

During the chat I mentioned that one of the things my staff does during the summer (our busy season) is shadow “program” staff at our organization.  I work in healthcare, so all it takes is getting fundraisers in the patient care areas, experiencing a day in the life of individuals battling complex medical problems to get them refocused and re-energized.

Our most successful shadowing experience this summer was unexpected.  It came not from a patient care area, but from a staffer spending two hours with a receptionist.  Seeing the integral part the receptionist plays in the overall success of our organization inspired a new sense of focus and belief that each and every staff member, regardless of their role, makes a difference in the lives of our patients.

Getting overwhelmed by work happens far too often in the nonprofit sector.  When work only consists of tasks on a to-do list, it loses passion and energy.  We are not going to be successful fundraising if we are asking for gifts without this passion or energy. Shadowing has become the perfect rejuvenator for my team.

With all of that said, here is my recommendation: Create a shadowing program. Allow your staff to spend two hours once a week for a month each summer and winter learning about different roles in your organization.  They will return ready to embrace their work with the passion it deserves.

Jen helps nonprofits advance their impact via fundraising, collaboration, and effective board and volunteer management.  She currently manages philanthropy operations for a healthcare organization.  Be sure to check out her website and follow her on Twitter!

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