Plan the Work, Work the Plan – Part Two

By Lisa M. Dietlin

In my previous post on planning your work and working your plan, I focused on the planning side of the equation. Now for some more guidance on making that plan happen. Throughout the years, I have often been asked for best practices to ensure the plan that has been developed actually gets implemented. Here are my top three tips:

  1. Make a list every day of the tasks that need to be done

Once the list is complete take a moment to review it and begin numbering what is the most important thing that has to be done, followed by the second most important thing, followed by the third, etc. Too often when we make a list we simply start at the top, which is usually a mistake. Take the time to write it down then check it off when the task is complete. For example if you made a call but are waiting on a return call so the task is not complete, place a dot beside the number and move on to the next item. Anything that is not completed on the list for that day gets moved to the next day or the date when it has to occur. Remember to do the hard things first. Don’t put off the difficult calls, emails or meetings. Do them.

  1. Every day call three (3) prospective donors.

If you call three (3) people a day that means you are calling 15 people a week or 60 people a month and more than 700 a year. If you are calling 700 people a year you will be working your plan. The purpose of the call is to move closer to a gift so you will either be scheduling a meeting, scheduling a phone call meeting, following up on information sent, etc. As you continue with this, have one of the three calls be to a newly identified prospective donor. In other words, keep working to have 25-33% of your outreach be to new prospects to qualify if there is an interest in the work of the nonprofit.

  1. Conduct 8-12 meetings per month with prospective and current donors.

Some people have told me this seems too high of a number. I counter by stating that if you cannot have 2-3 coffee meetings or 2-3 lunches or 2-3 breakfasts per week with prospective and current donors than something is wrong. I have worked for organizations that increase this monthly goal to 16-24 if your position has no other responsibilities (i.e., marketing, newsletter, staffing committee meetings, etc.). Go and meet with people – it is a great way to cultivate and steward folks and you will be amazed at what you learn. It’s the best way to do research, too!

Additionally, here are my top five (5) tips for you to consider as you make your work plan for the rest of the year:

  1. Listen. Be mindful always that donations come in many forms. Listen to what your prospective donor is telling you and make a plan.
  2. Correspondence. Make sure to send acknowledgement and thank you letters in a timely manner. Consider a mailed “thank you” before you default to email. And think about how you can do something different or special with your follow up that will stand out and make an impression.
  3. Use your signature block on your outgoing email messages to communicate a message to the recipients. You might simply add, “Have you considered leaving a gift to XXX organization in your estate plan or will?” Get rid of the quotes from famous people and start telling the recipients of your emails (both original, forwarded and reply) about your nonprofit.
  4. Always have your business cards with you – no exceptions. I can’t tell you how many times I have come into an office of someone after they have left the organization to find an almost full box of business cards. If you have them, use them; give them away. They do no good sitting in your desk drawer and you never know who you will meet throughout your day!
  5. Talk to strangers. As children we were always told not to talk to strangers, I would say do the opposite as an adult and tell folks what you do. You never know who that person beside you on a plane, train or in a coffee line could be…they just might be your next donor!

Bonus Tip: Be able to tell someone what your organization does in 6 words or less; experts say you should be able to describe something in 6 words or less to keep someone’s attention. Try it. Can you do it?


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