It’s no secret that 2017 was a tempestuous year. In just a year, we went from celebrating the charitable tax deductions’ 100th anniversary to a tax plan that would lessen its value and send aftershocks threatening much-needed programs. From tax changes to political divides and natural disasters, each day seemed to bring a new, unprecedented challenge. This barrage of changes has left many feeling overwhelmed.
Now, as we head into 2018, where do we even begin? As most organizations brace themselves, the full extent of 2017’s effects is still to be seen. Nevertheless, we must focus on engaging our current donor bases and providing the best experience possible to maximize our efforts. That is why this year’s resolutions are focused on the basics that help build as strong a foundation as possible.
Here are 5 areas not to be dismissed in 2018. These resolutions are fundamental in staying on track and shoring up fundraising programs.
1. Focus on donor retention.
While it’s too early to say for certain how much the new tax laws will affect charitable giving, it is possible that fewer people will be seeking to donate for tax benefits. This means that if donor acquisition was tough before, it could get even tougher. It will undoubtedly be more important than ever to keep the donors who are currently invested in your mission. Ensure you are viewing your donors as more than a checkbook, and work on deepening your relationship with them. Ask why they care about your organization’s mission; send handwritten thank-you notes; and schedule regular communications that do not include a fundraising ask.
2. Initiate—or renew your focus on—a sustained giving program.
Sustained giving programs are a popular topic for a reason—giving can increase from 50% through a sustained giving program to 300% according to Sustainers in Focus—with even the low end far exceeding the typical return for non-sustaining donors. Now is the time to encourage your new and repeat donors to commit to sustained giving so they are invested for the long haul.
3. Use analytics to make informed decisions.
Fundraising will always rely on the art of relationship building, but the science of analytics can help you be more intentional in the relationships you’re cultivating. Analytics can help you identify patterns in your data to find the donors and prospects who are most likely to respond positively to your engagement efforts.
4. Embrace outcomes measurement.
Donors have said time and again that seeing the impact of their gifts is important. Furthermore, when federal funding in one area suffers, foundations see a surge in grant applications. This will make it even more important for your organization to be able to showcase measurable impact and goals to stand out from the crowd. Identify the meaningful outcomes related to your mission and encourage all parts of your organization to drive toward those outcomes so you can achieve greater impact.
5. Engage your advocates.
If the last year is any indication, people have embraced being a voice for the causes close to their hearts. And you already have a base of passionate supporters, so now is the time to tap into their network of influence to expand your organization’s reach. The more you can tap into their individual passions, the more likely it is that they will serve as ambassadors for your mission.
With so much change over the past year and more surely to come, feeling uncertain is expected. But remember that while we are in a moment of upheaval, the social sector is never more important than in these times. If we can all resolve to strengthen our programs and do the best work possible, we can have an enormous positive impact in 2018 and far beyond.
This post originally appeared in NonprofitPRO on January 2, 2018.