Time to reflect: 3 questions to enhance your fundraising office

Note: I originally wrote this in 2014 as a "Development spring cleaning" post. I've now updated the article with more details and reframed it as questions to consider while we are all navigating this unprecedented period in our nonprofit work. Some of us may find ourselves busier than ever, while others are struggling to reach prospects or move forward with major fundraising initiatives. 

Whichever camp you fall into, I hope these three questions help you to stay focused, streamlined, and hopeful during this unique moment in time. There are always steps we can take to improve and enhance our Development efforts--whether or not the fundraising climate is ideal. 
Please stay well! -Sarah Jackson


Whether you're running a new or mature fundraising operation, there's always opportunity to make your efforts more efficient, more cost-effective, and more successful.

In that spirit, I offer three questions that every Development office should ask itself to make sure its fundraising work is as purposeful and focused as possible. 

For every activity, event, project, or database process, ask yourself:

1. Why are we doing this? 

Instead of going through the motions, stop and think: What's the core purpose of this activity? If it doesn't ultimately support fundraising success in some way, it needs to go. 

For example, fundraising staff might be required to prepare robust weekly pipeline reports that no one actually looks at. Find out why the reporting process was first established and then try to discover why they aren't being reviewed. Do the reports need to be streamlined--or are they no longer considered necessary by leadership? Act accordingly depending on the answer. Your staff could gain valuable time back every week!

2. Will this ultimately help bring more charitable revenue to my nonprofit? 

If the activity is causing a lot of work with little to no impact on your bottom line, then it's worth rethinking--and possibly even sunsetting--that activity. 

One example would be managing a special advisory committee of volunteers that requires significant planning but doesn't succeed in cultivating these individuals meaningfully. Perhaps there's a less costly and more personalized approach to building strong relationships with these constituents. 

3. Is there a better or more efficient way to do this? 

We're all guilty of doing things simply because "that's the way they've always been done." We don't always take the time to question a project or a process that preceded our time working at an organization. We accept the landscape as it is, rather than suggest something newer and better.

It may be time to switch from paper files to cloud-based storage. Perhaps certain meetings could now occur via Zoom instead of taking place in person--regardless of a pandemic.

I hope these questions help to focus and energize you and your fundraising teams.

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