Kim Klein’s New Year’s Resolutions for Grassroots Fundraisers

Dear Readers:

Either you were all so busy with year-end donations or you took some time off during December,  (I hope a lot of both)  but I did not get any questions to answer.   So I will use this space to suggest some new year’s resolutions for those of us with fundraising responsibilities, whether staff, board or volunteer:

1)      I will be a thoughtful donor myself.  Probably all of us give away money, and many of us are very generous.  But I know as I looked over my own giving this year that too much of it was either reflexive-someone asked, I gave; or traditional-I gave because I have given for years.  Too little of it really reflected deep thought:  how much do I care about this cause and how well do I think this organization addresses this issue?  Does the gift I give represent how much I care?  The more we know about being a thoughtful donor by being one, the better we will be at asking others to be thoughtful.

2)   I, or someone from the Board or staff, will be in personal touch with long time loyal donors at least once this year without asking for money. Most of us do a good job staying in touch with our major donors:  we call, we send personal notes, sometimes we offer to visit.  But many of us, under the pressure of time, fall into a bad habit of taking our long time loyal donors (who give varying amounts, although I am talking mostly about donors giving under $2,500) for granted.  These donors don’t complain. They send in their money every year or sometimes more often, and they don’t ask any questions.  Chances are they like what we do, but also chances are they occasionally feel a little slighted and ignored.  For example, a friend of mine has been giving $100 to a great organization for 15 years.  They send the same form appeal and form thank you every year, with the same language they would use with someone who had just given for the first time.  Had they played their cards differently, she would be giving a lot more.  But as it is, she was asked personally by another great organization for a very large gift and in order to make that, she has to drop some current giving.  The first to go?  Those groups that don’t even seem to notice her.

3)      I will ratchet up my fundraising.  Every time I would haves simply signed a form letter, I will add a note instead;  every time I would have written a personal note, I will call instead; every time I would have called, I will offer to visit, and every visit I make I will ask when I can visit again.  Your donors are your most reliable income stream, far more than your investments if you have any, and far more than any foundation or government funding.  They deserve more attention and you need to push yourself or push others to take care of these relationships.

4)      I will remember that, at the end of the day, the work of my organization is what counts, not the organization itself.  This insight is from organizational development consultant and social justice activist, Gavin Perryman.  Perryman is concerned that the emphasis on building institutions is seen as just as important as doing the work.  Words like “efficiency,” “sustainability,” or “innovation” have become values rather than strategies.   These words describe ways of thinking, planning and working but they are not an end in themselves.  (A tombstone will not read, “Good bye dear Fred, you were so efficient.”) Manage to mission and the money will take care of itself.

5)      I will remember that the reason I work in a nonprofit is to promote the common good.  As such we will say nice things about other organizations, join coalitions and work together to solve problems. From time to time tell donors about other organizations they may be interested in.   Keep the big picture in mind: work for fair and just tax policy and for a redistribution of wealth that allows everyone to have a decent standard of living.

With that said, I wish all of you all the best in 2011!

~Kim Klein