Updated: Oct 26
I love making and having a to-do list. But mostly, I love crossing things off my list.
Early in my career, I worked with an attorney who had a very specific and meticulous to-do list system. In the days before an app would update it for her - she had a typed and sorted list on her desk that she would re-print each morning. That one piece of paper, omnipresent at the corner of her desk, led the way for her schedule and productivity. She would add notes, use colorful pens to indicate progress, and neatly place check marks in boxes next to completed items. At the end of her workday, there was time set aside to update the list… removing the tasks completed and adding the next day's required activities.
List-making styles are personal, flexible, and can be frequently updated. They range from productivity apps on your phone to numbered lists on scrap papers or napkins.
These lists keep the maker on task and allow them to be more productive. They can improve memory and reduce stress. It works in the same way that taking notes (on paper) has been found to help students retain information.
Personally, they reduce stress because, as a visual person, they allow me to see the day's commitments. And the process of making a list allows me the opportunity to group tasks together and strategize for efficiency and next steps.
“Write it Down, Make it Happen: Knowing What You Want and Getting It,” by Henrietta Klausner, takes this list writing philosophy and expands on it. It turns out that writing things down can not only get you through the day but can also help to shape your future. When you envision the end result - you are more likely to behave in ways that will help you reach that success.
So fundraisers - add “Celebrate hitting my goals with a glass of champagne at [insert favorite spot here]” to YOUR list!
In fund development, there are many lists. As we work our way through the donor cycle, there are activities that must be done to Identify, Qualify, Cultivate, Solicit, and Steward, our donors. In each of these phases, there are tasks - call, email, invite, thank…
What is the most important task as you work with donors? Add the details to your CRM! Don’t omit this important task from your to-do list. Having it on the list validates the time and attention you must pay to this important activity.
One challenge that our work in fund development provides… for each activity crossed off of the list, ANOTHER is added.
Each channel of our work is cyclical - which means that at the completion of every activity, there is the next step.
If we don’t add the next step to our lists, whether it be in an automated way through the CRM or by adding a task to the bottom of the paper on the corner of our desks… we run the risk of being caught off guard when that donor disappears from our pipeline. Each donor (or at least each category of the donor) should always have the next step.
In the world of non-profit special events, we also run the risk of thinking that clearing the tables means we have a reprieve from event planning.
Nope! As soon as the thank you notes go out - it’s time to start planning for the following year’s programming.
After your successful event is the best time to recruit a new committee, honoree, or chairperson.
The list will look a little like this for a major gift prospect. A calendar of events, programs, and communication that fits around your donors will be integral to the process.
Identify - Document
Qualify - Document
Solicit - Document
Steward - Document
Strategize for what’s next!
Develop Tactics that will maintain engagement
Do It All Again (ok, you’ve already identified them)