How Will Next Year Be Better Than This One?

Christmas is over.  The New Year is nigh.  And aside from vowing that this year you won’t party too, too much, what New Year’s Resolutions are on your horizon? My big one is to work smarter, not harder.

That—as my clients hear me tell them all the time—means taking the time to plan.  It also means using the tools I have more wisely, and getting ones that I don’t have and learning how to use them.

It’s those last two things that always defeat me (until, of course, I force myself to jump in with both feet, and then quickly these things become the tools I have and need to use better).  My colleagues are going to whack me if I complain even once in 2014 about needing a decent client management system.  So this year, my big goal is to get one.  I know from experience—and have seen with my clients—how a relational database can literally change your life.  If you don’t have one, make this your New Year’s Resolution #1.    And if you don’t know which one to get, start by checking out NTEN and Idealware’s  2103 Consumer Guide  to Low Cost Donor Management Systems (

Under using tools more wisely, I would put thinking about how the things you do could serve more than one purpose.

For example, does your newsletter talk to donors, prospects, clients, and staff? Can the stories you’ve developed for the newsletter also serve to help get more media coverage?  Does all this work together with your social media?

Does your direct mail appeals both ask for a gift AND show donors how their gift will make a difference?  Are the things you do to cultivate a prospect also viable for stewarding a donor?

As important as using tools and techniques effectively is follow up.  I’ve been not as rigorous this year in following up with all the people I meet.  I do send my newsletter, but I don’t follow up and ask if they’ve found it helpful, and if there are ways I could help them fundraise more effectively.  What follow ups have you neglected? Before you do anything, consider what you hope the outcome to be.  And then make sure that you have a plan to ensure that outcome.

And don’t limit yourself.  If you have an event, do a campaign or an appeal, don’t just decide that bringing in $XXXX is the only thing you want.

An event may bring in the $150,000 you hoped for—but it could be the start of much more IF you plan correctly.  For example, rather than being content with the dollars brought in—I would want to identify N new major donors over the year from those who came to the event and NN new annual givers who would also continue to attend the gala each year.

Making next year better is something that is really doable.  So is working smarter.  It starts with knowing where you want to end up—and then walking back from there.

Janet Levine works with nonprofits, helping them to increase fundraising capacity,  energize their boards, and be more effective.  Learn how she can help make your 2014 better at  Or email her at