Are you a Planner?

Blog Post by: Jennifer Downes, CFRE

When you have a task at hand, how do you complete it? Do you go with the flow and deal with hurdles as they come, or do you formulate a plan of attack? Years ago (when I was younger and thought I knew everything), I used to have a more relaxed approach until I realized I was spending too much time working harder instead of smarter. Once I started taking the time to formulate a plan of execution, it helped me stay on path, use my time effectively and efficiently, and take on the unexpected hurdles that inevitably arise with less panic and frustration. 

Throughout the years, I have been named and described as the Calendar Keeper/Queen, a type A personality, planner, strategist, systematic and logistical, to name a few. All of these adjectives circle back to the fact that I am, to put it mildly, a planner/visionary/goal crusher with all aspects of my life. There seems to never be enough hours in the day to tackle everything on our plates, and while carving out time to strategize may seem daunting, setting aside time to plan and set tangible action steps to complete your task and/or goal is worth your investment on the front end.

These traits and implementations have allowed me to become the successful fundraiser and consultant that I am today and I’d love to share a little about what I’ve learned. 

On my top tricks in regards to fundraising: utilizing an annual solicitation and communications calendar as an effective tool to set you and your organization up for success. As a leader in your nonprofit, advanced planning of the annual direct mail campaigns, all communications with your donors (even if it doesn’t contain an ask), special events, and programs help solidify a vision that is put onto paper to analyze your upcoming year. This enables you to ask yourself and your internal team:

  • Do we have enough solicitation in place to achieve our budgeted goal for this fiscal year?
  • Do we have too much solicitation that might cause donor fatigue?
  • Are we communicating with our donors so they understand everything our organization is accomplishing within our community with their donations?
  • Will our communications overlap or do we have a nice balance?
  • Do we need to rethink the timing of ticket sales release, focused campaign or any other plans to prevent self sabotaging efforts and save ourselves some communication sanity?

If all things align, map out the action steps to execute your plan directly on the calendar. This will make the workload feel a lot more manageable and will be a guide to setting up your daily workflow. Set some deadlines and think of them as milestones to gauge your success. Also, don’t be afraid to adjust as needed. Things happen and that’s ok, but by having a plan in place, you’ll be able to pivot with less stress than having to start from scratch. 

I encourage you to set a goal(s) with any and all aspects of your life, create a plan with action steps, and crush it!