You’re just getting back from your 4th of July weekend, refreshed and ready to get back to work, reminded that summer is indeed too short.  And for many nonprofits, this month marks the beginning of a new fiscal year, which means now is a good time to plan how your organization will achieve this new year’s fundraising objectives.

Let’s take things one step at a time.  It is after all, just a few days after our long holiday weekend.  In our three-part planning series, we’ll walk through some steps to take you from generating ideas to setting your call to action for the year.  These ideas can be applied to any working group – from staff committees to your executive board.

Part One: Brainstorming – Where do you begin?

Like a writer staring at a blank screen, it can be intimidating to think of new ideas, not knowing how or where to start.  Find what works best for you and your staff as you begin to collaborate and think about the year ahead.  Here are a few ideas to encourage your creativity:

Go jump in a lake

Seriously? Well maybe don’t jump in a lake, but get outside and, yes, get away from your computer.  Take advantage of time outside of work to be productive.  Clear your head and get inspired during a walk while catching up with friends or family.  Ask for their insights on how they stay engaged with their favorite organizations.  What are their preferred communication platforms?  How are they giving?  Why are they inspired to give?

Walking meetings – Think on your feet

We all know exercise is good for the body and the brain. Why not take your next staff meeting on the road.  Whether it’s outdoors or just through the hallways of your building, break up the monotony and host a walking meeting.  Be inspired by a change of scenery, focusing on ideas and conversation.

You’ll still need to capture the thoughts generated during your walk, so allow some time to stop and take some notes.  But then get back up and keep the thought process moving!

Schedule a retreat

Summer is a great time to pause, reflect, and then look at the year ahead.  Nonprofits can take advantage of this through working retreats, focusing the topics on fundraising efforts for the next year.  You can keep it as simple or as detailed as you like.

Whenever I plan a working retreat, I follow a few guidelines:

  1. Schedule for no more than 4-5 working hours. Anything above that and you risk losing momentum and interest amongst your team.  You can always schedule multiple, half day sessions depending on how many topics you need to tackle.
  2. Have fun and have food. Inject a little fun and humor into your retreat. Have an icebreaker or team building activity to kick things off. And no one likes to work on an empty stomach – bring your group’s favorites snacks or have lunch catered.
  3. Set a specific agenda of topics to discuss. And ask your team to think about these topics before you meet.  The best ideas come when people have time to do some thoughtful independent thinking in advance.
  4. Start with a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis. During a SWOT analysis, take stock of your organization’s fundraising strengths and weaknesses.  What do you do well? Conversely, identify areas in need of improvement.  Determine internal and external opportunities for your organization to increasing funding.  Lastly, what factors pose a threat to achieving your fundraising goals?
  5. Stay on task. Appoint individuals to take meeting notes and to list action items.  Assign someone to keep time, ensuring one topic doesn’t monopolize your entire retreat.


Up next:  Putting your ideas to work with an action plan. Click here to read Part Two.



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