Start the new year strategic and strong

Amid this ever-busy month of December, it’s tempting to let things slide until “after the holidays.” It’s very important for nonprofits to make New Year’s resolutions, however, and here are some that your board and staff should consider.

Here’s our promise: this checklist will only take a few moments to scan, and may well spark some thoughts for your board agendas and staff meetings in January and February. Then you can sit back, let the holiday celebrations roll, confident that you’ve got a framework in place to start 2013 strategic and strong.

1.  Do you have a fundraising plan for the year ahead? This is a critical road map for how you will raise dollars in the coming year. The fundraising plan should list your specific funding needs for the year and identify particular funding sources (foundations, corporations, government, donors, religious entities, special events, earned income, etc.) with specific dollar amounts attached to each source and a description of the strategies and tactics you will use to raise these dollars.

2. Do you have an operational plan for the year ahead? This important planning tool allows you to take your strategic plan and further refine it in terms of activities and tasks for the coming year. Make sure your operational plan covers the spectrum of your programs, administrative operations and resource development needs.

3. Do you have a plan and strategy for involving your board in fundraising? This is a question that always comes up in all of our consultations and training sessions. Getting your board to help raise funds requires a plan, solid leadership from the board president, and good execution.

4. Have you targeted new major donors and foundations for the coming year? This is a great time of the year to develop a list of 25 major donor prospects and 5-10 new private foundations that you will cultivate in the coming year.

5. Do you have a plan to recognize your volunteers? For many organizations the volunteers are the “heart and soul” of the organization and can become the best ambassadors and fundraisers. Do you have a plan that will support and reward your best assets? Can you plan a dinner or other activity for early 2013 to say thank you? How about Valentine’s Day as a theme?

6. Do your marketing/public relations efforts support your fundraising plan? The overwhelming majority of organizations we work with are not positioned well to raise money. There are specific tools you need to gain visibility and credibility in potential funding markets. Do your research.

7. Do you know where you want your organization to be in three years? Do you know how to get there? A strategic plan and road map provides the focus and priorities needed to drive your organization to the winner’s circle.

8. Do you have a plan and a system for developing and tracking your donor base? Having a donor program that is user friendly can make all the difference in managing and tracking your donors, from small $25 donations to $50,000 grants. Remember you can’t keep this information in your head or on a word document and expect to fundraise successfully. There are inexpensive programs on the market that work wonders.

9. Is your corporate sponsorship and underwriting in place for your special events this year? With most special events the difference between making a lot of money or barely breaking even are the dollar values of corporate sponsorships. Allow yourself 6+ months to raise corporate dollars for your event.

10. In what areas could your agency benefit from consulting, training and continuing education? This is an important piece when your organization is going through a transition, or you have new employees and board members and you want to get them trained and “juiced up,” or if you are unclear about how to proceed.