The 5 Smartest Things you can do for your Fundraising this Fall

You know what’s really frustrating?

We know we have to do grants, appeals, events, sponsorships, major gifts, planned giving, online giving, the enewsletter, monthly giving, and more for our nonprofits.

But we don’t know the season that it makes sense to do these things.

A lot of people talk about what to do in fundraising generally, but they don’t talk about WHEN to do different fundraising tasks.

In a busy fundraising office, we are so busy putting out fires and reacting instead of responding, it’s like we don’t have time to breathe, let alone figure out what time it is.

So consequently, what gets done is whatever is in front of our faces at that moment.

I know when I was thrown into one event after another working in a small fundraising shop, I was hard pressed to keep up with what was expected of me. People told me things had to get done, but often didn’t say when until the last moment. With no one to teach me or mentor me, I know I dropped the ball on things. I could have done a lot better. But I didn’t.

So, what are 5 smartest things you could be doing this fall with your fundraising program?

1. Plan out when you want your year end appeal letter to drop in people’s mailboxes and work backwards. A lot of us wait until November and then run around trying to get it done by December 31st. The end of the year is stressful enough without this worry.

2. Chart every single fall and winter fundraising event you have on the wall, and start delegating different tasks so the events go smoothly. If you already have a sterling group of volunteers, take them out to coffee, give them a thank you note, and make them feel special. This can go a long way towards helping you get these events rocking and rolling.

3. Start to recruit volunteers. Based on your appeal letter tasks and event tasks, who do you need as a volunteer? What skills should they have? What volunteer job descriptions need to be written? Could you use virtual volunteers? In person volunteers? Someone in between? What sort of a time commitment do you need? What can you offer in return for volunteering? Then post your job descriptions on,, and other sites, and start screening volunteers. Then when your appeal letter needs a printing, sorting, stuffing, stamping and sealing party, you’ll have people ready and lined up to help. Or maybe you’ll have a group of corporate volunteers ready and waiting to come staff your event!

4. Tidy up. I just read Marie Kondo’s The Magic of Tidying Up, and this is on my mind a lot lately. You can start with your desk. Make it organized. Put all your grants in one section. All of your appeal letter stuff in another section. Take those old mugs to the sink and wash them out. If you’ve got a plant, water it. Throw out the dried up pens. Tidy up the desktop of your computer. This will help you feel better about your work.

5. Start planning your fundraising for next year. But don’t do it in a vacuum. Sit down with your board and other senior leaders and ask if they have planned to expand programs or services. Then make sure that you’ve got them clear on what you need to help them reach the income goals for those expanded programs or services.
Any other tips for what people should be doing right now? Please leave a comment.

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