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Ready, Set... Pause. Breathe. Then Plan.

Updated: May 28

In case you haven't started any New Year planning and are feeling some stress about that, know that you're doing great right where you are.

In Laura's 30 and Sarah's 20 years of fundraising and nonprofit leadership, we've been through lots of planning cycles. Most recent years as staffers and with clients we are just getting started with early or mid-year planning at this point in January. That's very different from what we started out doing before we started working together. We tried to guess December results while doing all the work of end-of-year fundraising... and plan for the whole next year 🏋️‍♂️😓.

And we would usually fail because that is too much and we are human.

We learned to wait for the books to close on December and give ourselves time to gain some actual perspective for planning, rather than ending up with a laborious document that we never look at again. Seriously, why start before the data is in and you've had a breather?

Well, there actually is a reason why we tried to do it for so long, and why you might be feeling that pressure. Because we used to 💩"should"💩 all over ourselves. I mean that we felt like we should do it, so we had to do it.

"I should have a plan ready by the first of the year..."

"I should be able to guess what next year will bring..."

"I should start the year with all of my ducks in a row..."

That's should-ing on yourself and frankly, it stinks.

Stop doing it. You will do better planning if you give yourself the gift of two things:

  1. Real, complete data from 2023 year-end, whenever that is.

  2. The perspective that comes from time and many deep breaths after year-end fundraising chaos.

And psst 🤫 .... your org values can help you do less to raise more in the next few months.

Here are three of our top planning tips for (likely very tired) nonprofit folks this season, once you've given yourself the gift of complete data and time after year-end.

🌦️ The Fundraising Forecast: Update Projections

Take a moment to revisit the fundraising strategies that laid the foundation for your budget's revenue side. What adjustments might be needed for these strategies? Engage your team in candid discussions to project what's realistically achievable. If there are changes, don't hesitate to share your new projections with everyone involved. Transparency is key, especially if there's a financial gap that needs your attention by fiscal year-end.

In the spirit of collaboration, ensure that all stakeholders are informed about any modifications in fundraising numbers. This shared understanding fosters a sense of collective responsibility and can open up opportunities for creative problem-solving. Remember, effective planning is a dynamic process and planning alone in the dark leads to plans that aren't used.

💡 Mindset Matters: Cultivating "Enough-ness"

Getting your mind around the idea of "enough-ness" means that you don't need to succumb to toxic positivity which will have you running around saying "yes" to everything. Recognizing your limitations is not a sign of weakness but a testament to your authenticity and self-awareness. Hold space for what you're letting go of in your planning process this year.

Hold space for what you're letting go of in your planning process this year. Reflect on the activities that may no longer align with your organization's evolving goals and values. Or maybe... radically... by releasing what didn't work. No, you don't have to keep doing a thing just because you said you would. If it doesn't work, let it go, Elsa. ❄️ By embracing the concept of "enough-ness," you empower yourself to make strategic decisions that contribute to the long-term sustainability and impact of your nonprofit. Leaders: tell your teams this is ok to do and reward letting go!

🌱 Use Values to Help Prune Your Plan

Your organization's values are powerful guides in the planning process. Does your commitment to equity prompt you to reconsider hosting a dinner event that excludes some of your clients? Does your dedication to collaboration inspire you to shift from tabling at community events to actively participating, demonstrating solidarity with your community?

Testing your fundraising activities through the lens of your values is a powerful tool for prioritization.

Wishing you a season of thoughtful planning and organizational growth.

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