Commentary: Resolutions for a Happy New (Fiscal) Year

Matt Lehrman, blog Audience Wanted, 6/30/13

"White. A blank page of canvas. His favorite. So many possibilities." The very last line of Stephen Sondheim's Sunday in the Park with Georgeexpresses the kind of optimism that deservedly arrives with the start of every new project & every new year, even a new fiscal year. There may be nothing more empowering to the human mind than the chance to start anew. That's why I believe in the power of New Year's Resolutions.  The folks at researched the top New Year's Resolutions.  I offer them here with special interpretation for arts & cultural leaders resolving for themselves and their organizations upon entering a new fiscal year:

  1. Lose Weight - What unnecessary baggage are you still carrying around?  Whenever someone says, "We've always done it that way" you've found an area deserving of scrutiny.
  2. Get Organized - Your Mom stopped telling you to clean up your room years ago...  but what would she say about your office?  Seriously!  Take a day to purge and reorganize. You'll feel better and you'll set a great example for the rest of your office!  
  3. Spend Less, Save More - Read my recent blog on budgets with your organization's leadership team and discuss: "Toward what objective would we spend our extra 10%?"
  4. Enjoy Life to the Fullest - Here's an interesting topic for your next staff meeting:  "If we knew that this was thefinalyear of this organization's life, what would we do to make the most of it?"
  5. Staying Fit and Healthy - Before you wipe the slate clean, invest some time & effort to write a "case study" around each of the 3 most critical challenges you faced in the past year that describes what you did (or wish you did) on each.  The key to staying fit is in developing healthy habits.  Candid self-assessment is a biggie!
  6. Learn Something Exciting - How about starting a "thing of the month club" within your organization?  Gather together with other people who want to get into the habit of learning - and come up with a process to share news, relevant books, blog posts, apps, research reports, articles & more.
  7. Quit Smoking -  "What is our organization's most unhealthy habit?"  Why not survey your staff today?  It's never easy breaking bad habits, but the benefits can be huge.
  8. Help Others in Their Dreams - Name one emergingnonprofit arts or cultural organization or leader in your community that you admire.  What is one thing that your organization might be willing to do to support that organization's (or leader's) audience-building efforts?  (For example, might you send an e-mail to your list on their behalf?) With no strings attached, why not call that person up and offer your gift today?
  9. Fall in Love - We spend so much time & effort trying to get audiences to fall in love with OUR offerings, it's easy to forget that love must be mutual.  What effort have you made to fall in love with your audience?
  10. Spend More Time with Family - Your staff wants more than a paycheck and your volunteers deserve more than donuts & coffee.  They want to belong to something greater than themselves.  They want your personal connection.  Resolve to make each and every one a meaningful part of your process to make the magic happen.

Commentary: Nonprofits should use start of new fiscal year to clean up digitally

Bethany Lang, Neon CRM blog, 6/7/13

Summer tends to be slow at a lot of nonprofits -- your organization is most likely wrapping up the fiscal year, staff are taking those much-needed vacations, and slowly but surely everyone is prepping for the next year of programming. But just because things are slow doesn't mean it's time to be lazy! Summer is a great time to catch up on all of those tasks you've been meaning to do but have never found time for. Here are some suggestions for how to spend your summer.

1. Clean up your data: Over time, your CRM or database can get messy -- duplicate accounts are created, names are misspelled, etc. Of course, messy data is unreliable data. This is a great time to make sure everything is nice and clean. Some suggestions: [Use your] CRM database duplicate record finder feature to scan for potential duplicate records. Create reports and queries so that you can view all of your data in one place and easily look for missing or incorrect information in an onscreen or Excel spreadsheet format.

2. Update your data: You know that giant stack of business cards sitting on your desk? What about those emails from board members with new prospects or new contact information? How about those meeting notes from your executive director that need to get into your CRM database so you can organize them and pull them later? Now's the time to enter and clean up all of that information into your database CRM, so you can make sure that everyone gets your direct mailings and emails come annual appeal time.

3. Set up your CRM database for your new fiscal year. Some possible tasks: Add new campaigns, funds, and other fundraising tracking data as needed; Set up new saved or auto reports that will help you better track your year-to-date results; and Set up next year's events in your CRM system, or your event management software (if separate from your main CRM). That way, your organization and staff don't have to worry about setting them up when you're in "frantic event planning mode."

4. Rewrite your standard emails and letters: Many fundraisers simply don't have the time to write exciting new acknowledgement letters every month or quarter, but these letters are a great way to give brief highlights of what your organization has done over the last few months. This summer, take a look at your automated emails and donation thank you letters and update them with some new language about the great work that your organization is doing. Donors notice -- and like -- when these letters change.

5. Write a guide to your database: We've said it before, and we'll say it again - policies and procedures are critical to maintaining a clean and useful database. Write an internal guide that is specific to your organization. Your guide could include: Established timelines and workflows for data entry; Methods for tracking fiscal year donations; and Policies for entering new records.

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