The 7 Elements of a Successful Small Development Office

And guess what?  It works for larger offices also!

SevenMy first fundraising job was at a large research university. My days were completely filled with donor and prospect appointments where I was able to provide opportunities for these donors and prospects to support the university.   I fundraised all day, every day.

Flash forward a few years and I was the one-person development office at a small nonprofit.  My days were filled with a lot of things, but not with meeting and engaging donors.  When I was directly involved in development it was like as not entering names on the database, recording gifts received, writing thank you letters, direct mail appeals and/or grants, and responding to my board members desire for more and larger events.  In my spare time, I tried to meet with individual donors—but truth to tell, that happened less and less as time went on.

For me, it was frustrating.  I was dancing around fundraising, but I wasn’t raising a whole heck of lot of funds.

What I learned from that first job as a one-person office, was that I needed to be very clear what my priorities were and to focus on the important—those things that need to be done to meet our goals.  And to do that, you must first know what your goals are—how much you have to raise and how you are going to raise those funds.

So as a fundraiser, that meant I needed to focus on the steps that move people and organizations from a possibility to a contributor:  identifying who I should be working with to how I could engage them, ask for support, and then ensure they saw on a regular basis how their support makes a difference.

How to do that?  By paying attention to the 7 things that are critical to a successful fundraising program:

  1. A great reason for your donors to support you
  2. A deep and expanding prospect pool
  3. Lots of ways to engage prospects and donors
  4. Active and engaged volunteers
  5. Metrics to keep you on track
  6. An annual calendar so you know when you are doing what—and ensuring that your fundraising is as integrated and strategic as possible.
  7. Documentation for everything you do

Above all, as you try to get things done, remember to simplify.  For the one-person office, less really is more.  Focus on where you will have the best return on investment of time.  That means doing the things that bring you closer to your donors, which will bring you closer to your fundraising goals

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