Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Summer Projects- Soaking Up the Sun

Just like spring cleaning at home, summer projects are a ritual in development offices across the land. Once the fog clears from commencement, parking spaces and elevator room opens up, the cafeteria offerings begin to look noticeably lighter, vacations begin to empty the offices nearby, it is a great time to work on your program and help you solve some of the issues that caused you to have heartburn, a large Starbucks tab (or other vices) over the last year. Below are some of my ideas, but I would love to hear from you in the comments section what your summer plans are.

1.  Is your acknowledgment process slow and clunky? Is it time to breathe new life into it with new letters? Look into how to streamline the process and find letters shared from colleagues here.
2.  Do you endowment reports suck the life out of you? Is there a better way to pull together the data needed or to get students to cooperate? Are they pleasing your donors? Don’t know?
3.  You may want to implement a survey or feedback mechanism so that you can find out if your work is fruitful and satisfies your target audience.
4.  Did you recently attend a conference (hi Seattle folks!) and come back inspired? Want to implement a new idea you’ve seen elsewhere, perhaps on your favorite blog(ahem) or something that could increase your donor satisfaction and visibility? Now’s the time.
5.  A few quick wins to increase the donor focus side of your shop. Work with your gift processing team to have the Donor Bill of Rights placed on every gift receipt. Work with your online giving team to make the online thank you and acknowledgment more donor friendly. Post the Donor Bill of Rights on your webpage. These three quick changes can show your donors your intent and make others more aware of their needs.
6.  Build a mission, vision and task/work calendar for your office. Let others know your beliefs, and also show them the projects you are working on so they can help understand your workload. Also, write down a list of all of the things that derailed your plans or otherwise interrupted your year. Analyze them and try to learn how to head them off at the pass to make your future smoother.
7.  Analyze your budget. Look at places you overspent, look for hidden reserves and make sure your projects were worthwhile, both in donor focus and also fiscally. If you have budget reserves and need to spend them before the end of the fiscal year, here are some great ideas: high quality color laser printer, nametag printers (Dymo are best) professional development, consultant fees, digital video camera, organizational supplies.
8.  Call up your vendors, they will give you ideas for the next big thing, send you samples and new catalogs for the new year and also let you know if any of your favorites are on sale. They are a great resource for trend information and what’s working right now.
9.  Call a few colleagues in your industry. Benchmarking and sharing ideas is so valuable. You can commiserate, brainstorm, and talk to others who do what you do. Never forget how valuable your professional network is.
10.Talk to your staff(if you have one-- or yourself if you don’t, but be careful and do it with the door closed) and key stakeholders to find out if they have any new creative ideas that can help your program or your donors and try to implement at least one of those ideas in the coming year.
11.Take time to write thank you notes to those who have helped you succeed in the last year. Facilities staff, data folks, mail room personnel, all of the people who have gotten you out of a pinch or whose work makes your life easier. They will be surprised and delighted.

Finally, stop, take a deep breath and be appreciative for the wonderful careers we have ensuring that the many missions of our organizations help the world be a better place. And if you have trouble doing that, you can always work on your resume.

I would love to hear your summer plans in the comments below.



  1. Great post, Lynne. I especially like #11. We always try to do that around the holidays, but that's a very hectic time, so I like your idea.

    This summer we're planning to explore avenues of post-campaign stewardship as we are winding down our $400mm campaign.

    In keeping with your advice, I'd like to take this opportunity to thank YOU for all you do to stir the Donor Relations pot throughout the year. You're a wonderful colleague!

    Best regards,

  2. Hi Lynne, regarding #11...thank you for the wonderful reminder to take the time to write a thank you note to vendors,campus partners, staff etc. thanking them for the special attention paid to making a project or an event successful. It goes a LONG way.

    Enjoy your summer!