How to Achieve Calm Confidence in Fundraising . . . Part 6: R is for Record and Repeat

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Do you remember the classic story about the ant and the grasshopper from Aesop’s Fables? The ant spends his summer months gathering food and preparing for the dark winter months, while the grasshopper wastes away his summer days singing and lounging around.

Depending on the version of the story you grew up with, the grasshopper either learned his lesson and changed his ways, or he was simply never heard from again...

Hopefully you’re more like the ant than the grasshopper when it comes to planning for and projecting the results of next year’s fundraising.

If you’re reading this post, I’ll assume you’re the ant. But when it comes to the accuracy of your planning and making projections, how confident are you that your projections will be accurate?

Being able to accurately project how well you will perform next year goes a long way toward achieving a state of calm confidence by helping to prevent much of the anxiety associated with trying to figure out where all of the money will come from.

R is for Record and Repeat

This is the sixth and final post in a series I’m writing about the framework I use to help nonprofits learn to adopt a thoughtful and systematic approach to their work and, in turn, achieve a state of calm confidence in fundraising.

I use the acronym SLOWER to help define the elements of the framework:

Schedule, Level-set Expectations, Organize and optimize, Work-back schedule, Execution, Record and repeat.

Today I’ll talk about Record and Repeat.

When projecting contributed revenue, there are a few different ways to come up with numbers:

  1. Plug numbers into whatever budget target you’ve been given.
  2. Add a percentage increase to what you’ve done previously.
  3. Carefully analyze what you did previously, look at what worked and what didn’t for each individual fundraising effort, decide what tactics you’ll use and what impact they are likely to have, and calculate a projection based on what you’ve found.

Of these three options, it’s hopefully obvious that the third is going to give you the most accurate projections. But you’re probably thinking to yourself, “There’s no way I have the time it would take to do all of that analysis for every single project I completed last year.”

And, of course, you would be right. To do this all at once would take an enormous amount of time and would require an unnatural ability to recall specific details over long periods of time.

It’s a Cinch by the Inch but Hard by the Yard

The solution to being able to carefully analyze each individual previous fundraising effort for one or even several years is to do so at the completion of each effort.

It’s important that, with each new effort, you build enough time to complete an analysis of the effort into your work-back schedule and account for it in your flight calendar. Analysis may take a few minutes, a few hours, or even longer, depending on the type and complexity of effort.

For example, after a large fundraising event you may be able to conduct some of the analysis the next day. But if there are open or unresolved pledges or auction item bids, it may be necessary to wait a little while before completing your analysis.

Analysis is further aided by making sure you capture and record any pertinent details or lessons learned throughout the execution phase of the effort.

In the case of our fundraising event, this might include recording what method of invitation yielded more RSVPs, or documenting any special ordering requirements for the caterer that weren’t previously known or discussed.

For a simple yet thorough analysis of your fundraising efforts, review and capture the following information in the action brief for the effort:

  • Quickly review and reacquaint yourself with the goals and tactics you originally set.
  • Review the work-back schedule and document any items where you may have had difficulty sticking to the due dates.
  • Capture any lessons learned and make a note of what you might do differently next time.
  • Note how well each tactic performed relative to your original expectations.
  • Note how well you performed relative to the original goals.
  • Anywhere you over- or underperformed, record the actual outcomes and the reason(s) why you performed better or worse than expected.
  • Finally, indicate whether the effort was successful or unsuccessful, or if you were unable to determine its success.

Once you’ve completed your analysis, save the action brief someplace secure, easily accessible, and preferably linked to future similar action briefs. For more information on the systems we use for maintaining action briefs, contact us. We’ll be happy to share!

Repeat, Repeat, Repeat

By repeating the analysis step at the end of each effort, you’ll not only be setting yourself up for more accurate budget forecasting, but for more accurate forecasting with each new effort throughout the year.

Obviously, projections don’t guarantee results, and they are only as accurate as the data that goes into creating them, but by repeating the process consistently, your accuracy will improve with each new effort, and with that will come a sense of calm confidence in your work.


Image Credit: Joel Montes de Oca