The Weekend Briefing

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So many advancement professionals tell me that right now, the start of the first full week of January, is the most stressful time of the entire year.
This is what I hear:
“We are so behind on posting gifts and thank-you’s. What must our donors think?!”
“Honestly, I don’t know where to start. I’m a little overwhelmed.”
“Too many asks failed to close and we don’t know what to do.”
“Not sure how we’ll get to our June 30 goal. We had a disappointing year-end, to say the least.”
Does any of that sound familiar? Some? All?
Well, we can feel sorry for ourselves with a communal “Boo-hoo,” or we can get moving!
If you do only one thing this week, finish your thank-you’s. It’s not too late to make your donors feel appreciated, not processed. Nothing compares to a handwritten note. Write 10 of them a day and take your time doing each one. You have no idea, or maybe you do, of the impact that 50 sincere handwritten notes will have.
Each note you write should begin this way: “Dear (Name), I am tardy in thanking you for your gift…” And then do the very best job you can, no jargon, to say thanks. 3-4 sentences, tops. Hand address the envelope. Live stamp. Pure gold.
Gifts that didn’t close? What do we keep saying? “Put yourself in the donor’s shoes.” Are you going to give up and write this gift off? No? I didn’t think so. Why didn’t the donor want to close the gift? Busy? Uninterested? Not ready financially? If the donor was interested enough to begin the conversation about a gift, they will be willing to revisit the conversation with you sometime in the next month or two, if you ask.
Don’t know where to start? It’s because you don’t see your path. Your short list. What are your 3-5 priorities in the first quarter of the year? You don’t know? Aren’t sure? That’s okay. Ask for help.
The June 30 goal in question? Find a loyal donor who will give you a “Challenge Matching Gift.” It’s the best way I know to get lapsed donors motivated at this time of the year. Just make sure the challenge is not for the annual fund, for heaven’s sake, but for a specific, compelling project. Now, the project can absolutely be part of your organization’s budget for the year, but you are showing your donors what the impact of their gift will be. That’s what matters.
Here are ten words that can help you make this January a serious success:
“Bring it.” As in, “I’m going to ‘bring it’ every day.” If you can’t muster that energy, that enthusiasm every work day, your heart might be telling you something.
“One thing.” What’s the one most important thing you need to accomplish each day? Write it down on a piece of paper early in the morning and leave it laying around in a conspicuous place. Then get it done. Each day. One thing. You have no idea how empowered and in control it will make you feel.
“Conquer ‘stuff.’” In “Winning,” we write about the “stuff” we all face every day that conspires to keep us from what we need to do, what we want to do, what we’re here to do. The thing is, the “stuff” masks itself as nice things, good things, helpful to others things. All bad. Make the “stuff” find its place.
And last, “Get mad. Think urgent.” Don’t get angry at others! Get angry at your self-doubt, your procrastination, and the “stuff!”  That’s what I mean by “Winning.” You can beat the things that keep you from winning. Hitch up your pants, set your jaw, and decide you have no time to waste!
New Year’s Eve and most of New Year’s Day we had two special houseguests. Margaret is four and Charlie is two. Their cousins, Olivia and Will, have been our houseguests often in the past.
On New Year’s Day we all decided it would be a great idea to go sledding. Lucky for us, we can walk out our back door to the perfect hills.
Once Charlie was set with his boots, snow pants, jacket, mittens and hat he loudly announced, unprompted, “I’m ready for action!”
As we step into this New Year, we would do well to bring along that same childlike feeling of excitement and hope.
Are you ready for action? I bet you are.
Have a good week, my friends.
Rob Cummings coaches gift officers, consults on capital campaigns and helps nonprofit organizations build strong, sustainable fundraising programs. You can reach him at

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