There’s one question a fundraiser needs to be able to answer with unshakeable confidence:
Not in the broad “what are your goals for the year” sense. I mean in the literal, “what is the next task you’ll take on, because nothing else is as important right now” sense.
At War Child, our five year strategic plan has provided the broad strokes. For everyone on our team, we know the progress has come because of our consistent disassembly of those big multi-year goals into manageable projects and tasks. We couldn’t execute everything at once. Risk mitigation, investment ability, and staff capacity come to mind as important considerations along the way (so far).
“The secret of getting ahead is getting started.” – Unknown
You’re hiking with a boy scout troop. To get to the camp site before sundown, they need to walk about 3 km/h. Most of them are strolling between 3 and 5 km/h, but one scout named Herbie is walking 2 km/h and falling behind.
So that you don’t lose Herbie, so you move him to the front of the pack. Now, everyone is stuck moving at 2 km/h, and you’re behind schedule. Now that you’ve isolated Herbie’s speed as the main issue, speeding him up will speed up the entire group. Unload his backpack, tighten his boots, giving him a snack and he’ll be moving at 3.5 km/h.
This example is a simplification of course, because in actuality it’s never so simple. A change to one part of a system will influence another area, revealing one new constraint after another. The point is to keep looking for, isolating, and improving with a manageable and systematic approach.
Here’s how you can apply this to challenges at your charity:
On a scale of 1-5, score how each tool and process are performing.
1 = Not working/nonexistent
2 = Meets few needs, is inconsistent.
3 = Meets current needs
4 = Meets current needs, ability to do more with help
5 = Meets current needs with ability to do more
Here’s a hypothetical to consider. You might have more rows depending on how big or small your shop is:
One clear constraint we can see here is your donor database. Acknowledgements are also a 2, but its likely that these are being generated or at least tracked through a function of your database. If it were up to me, I’d tackle the donor database first.
Now let’s say you take on the challenge of migrating your data into a new tool. The processes you had for the database are now out of date. And your team’s ability to use the tool? Back to square one. Will you need or want a new system for prospect management or campaign reporting now?
This never ends, nor should it. Keep sharpening your ability to identify constraints in your system and you’ll be well on your way to completing those big projects, making way for more amazing work from your charity.