Five Tips for Starting the New Year Right

Thoughtware Article Published: Jan 15, 2020
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Year-end can be one of the busiest times of the year for nonprofits. With the holidays and other major events, planning for the new year can become an afterthought. Making a nonprofit thrive isn’t an easy task, and it requires being proactive instead of reactive in strategic planning.

As Benjamin Franklin once said, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” Not prioritizing your new year plan can cause you to coast through the year, which can result in undesirable outcomes. So, what should you be doing this year? Start by following these five simple tips to make your impact even greater in 2020:

  1. Revisit Your Strategic Plan
    A strategic plan should be a working document that’s regularly revisited and analyzed. When reviewing your nonprofit’s strategic plan, consider if goals and objectives were met, if projects and initiatives were appropriately planned for and if organizational priorities need revision.

    Three Main Focus Points:

    1. Create timetable
    2. Incorporate measurable outcomes
    3. Establish a role to evaluate the strategic plan
  2. Review Your Financial Reports/Metrics
    Financial reports can help determine the overall success of your nonprofit, allowing you to review where you stand based on critical key metrics. A healthy balance sheet is necessary, especially when using key line items such as revenues, expenses and net assets. It’s also important to analyze past financial reports and forecasted data projections to keep your organization forward-focused.

    Analyzing and forecasting data will allow you to pivot and update policies and procedures annually to help ensure applicability to current-year conditions, build a cash reserve (if necessary) and invest in critical infrastructure such as technology.
  3. Create Three Critical Calendars
    Calendars can help an organization improve productivity, establish and maintain deadlines and avoid double-booking or overbooking. Consider building these three calendars:
    1. Organizational Master Events Calendar
      The organizational master events calendar shows major milestones of the year including board meetings, events, training and fundraising. This is a collective overview of all major happenings around your nonprofit.
    2. Resource Development Calendar
      The resource development calendar includes all the major fundraising and development events during the year. These events will likely also be included on the master events calendar, but having an additional resource development-focused calendar will allow much more detail. In addition, items like income goals, costs, projections, percentage change and staffing should be included within this calendar.
    3. Communication Calendar
      The communication calendar allows you to have top-of-mind awareness and helps strategize your voice in the community. This calendar should include traditional media spots and releases, events, web, social media and community events.
  4. Clean Up Your Contact List
    As a nonprofit organization, your contact list is one of your most critical resources. If you’re using it correctly, this is how you communicate important information to donors and members. If your list is not up to date, it can make communication difficult.

    Consider these steps when cleaning up your list:
    1. Define “active”
    2. Segment active donors and volunteers
    3. Merge multiple/duplicate lists
    4. Remove bounced emails
    5. Request a response/update information
    6. Use site/social media for sign-ups
    7. Abstain from storing the contact list on one computer; use the cloud
  5. Plan for Professional Development
    Professional development within your organization allows employees to put their best foot forward when interacting with donors and volunteers. It’s important to invest in employees not only for talent acquisition and retention, but also their direct link to donors and volunteers. Professional development can take many forms, including attending conferences and workshops.

    The final thing to consider this new year is regularly engaging with donors. Good stewardship is keeping donors engaged through thoughtful communication. Simple things like remembering to say thank you and personally getting to know donors will help maintain positive relationships that could pay off. Remember, a donor will often give out of generosity, not from being asked.

A nonprofit’s success or failure can be determined by its ability to plan. Using these five tips along with emphasizing good stewardship will help bring success in the new year!

Get more tips from our archived December 2019 webinar “Five New Year Strategies for Nonprofit Leaders.” If you have questions, reach out to your BKD Trusted Advisor™ or submit the Contact Us form below.

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