Since fundraising is a process, monitoring what you do & what happens and learning from that is key. So, let’s look at how to keep track of and learn from your fundraising actions.
Since the next best step depends on what comes out of the step you have just taken, it is hard to plan ahead much in fundraising. (Unless, of course, you have tried and tested experience with a certain chain of events that you want to replicate.) So, what can you plan for?
Plan for your milestones
You can plan for your milestones. Break down your fundraising plan goals into more bite-sized milestones. For instance, define the income you want to have generated per quarter or by month. Or set a milestone for the number of private individual donors you want to have. Or for the number of people that you want to have reached out to. Exactly what is a good milestone for you depends on your fundraising ambitions.
Be sure to formulate your milestones clearly and concretely so that it is easy to see whether or not you are on the right way towards achieving them or not.
Plan for your planning
The other thing you can certainly plan for is regular catch-up meetings with your team. Since you cannot plan many steps ahead it is important to plan for regular exchange and catch-up moments, so that you can design next steps based on what has come out of the previous ones.
Now you have you ambitions and concrete milestones per month and/or quarter. And you have planned your (weekly) catch-ups. And you have of course designed your first best steps for your fundraising plan. So now it is time to get going. Implement the first steps and have your first catch-up meeting.
Let everyone share in the team what they did. And inventory the results of those actions. What has come out of the work done? List clearly everything that has come out of the actions taken. A visible collection of results helps keep everyone focused and motivated. You can use sticky notes, flip chart papers or online whiteboards for this.
Don’t forget to learn!
Now, let’s analyze the results. Were they the results you were planning or hoping for? Are they unexpected results? Or even maybe unwanted?
If your results are not what you wanted – see if you can figure out what is causing the discrepancy. Did you maybe have too high expectations (“I send one letter with a request for a donation, and I will see USD 10,000 in our bank account the next day”)? Or did you miss a step, like defining a clear target group for your appeal? Find at least one thing you can do different next time, that could help you get the result you want and move toward your milestones and ambitions.
If your results are the ones you wanted – see if you can pinpoint the success factor in your implementation. Find at least one thing you consider relevant to the success of the action.
Visibly list all your lessons learned about successes and about actions that were not yet successful.
Best next steps
Keeping in mind your milestones and overall ambitions for your fundraising, what is now a best next step to move forward toward your milestones and ambitions? How can you use the results of your actions and build on them? And how can you use the lessons learned in designing and implementing your next best step?
For a successful catch-up that generates valuable lessons learned you need to ensure a safe environment for your team. If it is not safe to make mistakes, you cannot hope to uncover meaningful lessons learned.
If your team is afraid of owning up to mistakes or to not getting the desired results, the focus of the analysis will move to finding other people, in the team or outside of it, who may be to blame. That is not helpful to you or your team to improve performance next time around. (And more importantly, this is not a nice environment to work in!)
Create a loop of sharing information about what was done, what came out of these actions, lessons learned and designing next best steps.
If you are not sure whether your environment is safe enough, pay extra attention to this part of the process in your first iterations. Talk to your team members in between meetings to assess to what extent they feel safe sharing what went wrong fully and openly and how they feel about the responses they received from others.
If you learn you can never go wrong. But there may be a moment when you need to decide whether your ambitions for the year are still attainable or not. If you haven’t reached 25% of your ambitions within the first two or three months, you may need to do a reality check. And you may need to adjust your ambitions. Plan separate meetings for these decision time moments, every two to three months.
My key tips
- Taking care of a safe work environment is crucial to any success and especially for processes in which learning is key.
- Keep a visible record of all results achieved and all lessons learned (and not only of all to-do’s).
Want to know more and ask questions?
If you want to discuss this more – jump into the Facebook group and get input from a wide range of peers and from myself!
Here is how you can join my free Facebook group
You can join my free Facebook group how to become a professional and resilient nonprofit with Suzanne Bakker here. This group is a safe space for open exchange and discussion on potentially sensitive topics like boards, nonprofit management, fundraising, etc.