Karen’s Advice: Don’t Set Resolutions to Increase Your Nonprofit Funding

Listing resolutions to increase your nonprofit funding is easy; setting ones you can accomplish is tricky. New Year’s Resolutions often include activities that we know we ought to do–but for some reason until now have not. People set resolutions, firm decisions to do or not do something. They don’t realize that fulfilling income resolutions requires multiple actions, unknowns, unexpected steps, and frequent recommitment. Funding resolutions that involve actions like these are impossible to keep. Avoid this negative experience. Avoid setting New Year’s income resolutions at your nonprofit. Do something better.

Increasing nonprofit funding is key to your success. Instead of setting resolutions, set goals. You may think that the difference between a resolution and a goal is minuscule. However, setting out to achieve something that requires a strategy, multiple steps, and frequent adventures is vastly different from making a firm commitment to do or not do something, like not running red lights. Goals identify specific results, like creating a more engaged fund-raising board, a planned giving program, balanced budget, or increasing your income. Nonprofit goals by their nature engage the community and are not fully under your control. Goals require learning and refining actions as you work. Goals require more than a firm commitment.

I recommend the following steps to set funding goals to accomplish in the New Year:

1. Identify a list of outcomes you seek. For most non-profits one will include increasing funding.

2. Prioritize your list.

3. Select No More Than Three. Yes, just three goals, though two is better. Prefer at least one goal that sounds fun. No need to make your work life torture.

4. Identify Next Steps. A step is something you write on your calendar with a definite beginning and end. Once you complete it, you check it off. For example, “Meet with Joe to ask him to be on the Planned Giving Task Force.” In contrast, this is not a next step: “Start planned giving.” It is too general. If you can’t identify a specific next step, try this one: “Research practical actions on planned giving by talking to members of the Planned Giving Council.” Why? To accomplish goals, you need information to create do tomorrow steps that fit with your strategies.

5. Plan for Realistic Incremental Progress. Avoid setting unrealistic steps, like trying to visit all twelve board members in January. Review last year. If you completed seven visits, undertake a realistic stretch plan of three visits per quarter.

6. Create Your Own Motivation. What will motivate you to accomplish steps? Writing it in your calendar in ink helps. But also consider personal incentives. For example, if your goal is to spend more one-on-one time with your board, find meeting spots to energize you. How about a takeout lunch in a park, rather than a busy, noisy restaurant in high season? When you have a choice, motivate and please yourself.

7. Eat Peas First. As a non-pea person, this means doing the steps you like least in the beginning. With board members, call the one you have the least desire to meet with first. With any luck, your proactive approach will improve the relationship. It will definitely lighten your backpack’s load.

8. Evaluate Your Progress. Do this briefly each week and in-depth the last of the month. If needed, identify and schedule next steps.

9. Resolve to Achieve Your Goals. While I don’t recommend nonprofit funding resolutions, I do recommend that you do set one resolution at your nonprofit. Resolve to do whatever it takes to achieve your funding goals.

More Funding Related Resources

To learn about the seven sources of nonprofit income read me.

For a basic toolkit to obtain more funding, read this.

Besides taking the above steps, another way to achieve more of your new year income goals is to upgrade time management at your organization. Since salaries and volunteer support are the major nonprofit expenses, helping others to use their time well is as good as or better than getting a large check. With freed up time you can create more mission with the resources you already have. Here are some of Karen’s time management tools available on this website:

Booklet: Time Management for Nonprofit Leaders

Audio: Raising the Bar on Time Management in Your Organization

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