Groundhog Day

Congratulations! If you work at an educational institution or an organization that follows the same timeline, today is the culmination of all your annual giving efforts for the year…the last day of the fiscal year.

Time to celebrate! This has been a year like no other, and a little time off before getting back to the grind is well-earned and well-deserved.

But don’t relax for too long! The next fiscal year arrives tomorrow. And I’ve got a tool that can help. Read on.

Working in annual giving can feel a little like what Bill Murray’s character felt in the movie Groundhog Day: stuck in a loop. In the movie, he awoke each morning in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania as a TV weatherman covering whether or not the town’s famous groundhog would see his shadow. Again and again, day after day.

For annual giving professionals, your Groundhog Day starts tomorrow. And you know what can get you unstuck from that loop? A plan.

In my years of working in Advancement, I’m still surprised at how few written plans I’ve seen for annual giving. We’re missing the first part of the age-old adage, “plan your work and work your plan.”

The advantages of a written plan are many:

  • Gives your annual giving program a sense of direction
  • Provides a sharp focus on objectives and results
  • Establishes the basis for departmental and institutional teamwork
  • Helps anticipate future problems or roadblocks
  • Improves coordination with other Advancement efforts
  • Communicates the strategic importance of your role
  • Offers a framework for decision-making moving forward

I could go on, but you get the idea.

But before you write your plan, there is a critical first step, and that is to determine the overall direction of your plan. This is where annual giving professionals sometimes get stuck in the Groundhog Day effect of simply repeating last year’s plan.

Here’s a tool that can begin to get you unstuck: Annual Giving Planning Tables. (A very plain name for a powerful planning tool.)

Download these sheets (the spreadsheet contains three separate tabs or workbooks), fill them out with your results from the fiscal year ending today, and analyze where you stand and where you want to take your program with three different views: 1) giving levels, 2) constituents, and 3) methodologies. I encourage you to complete the tables and analyze the data in that order.

As you review the data, something should click that will trigger a slightly different approach with your annual giving plan this year. Perhaps you’re lagging in parent giving, maybe alumni participation is stagnant, or it could be that your leadership giving levels ($1,000+) aren’t where they need to be. The review, analysis, and goal-setting you conduct on the first two planning tables (giving levels and constituents) will carry over into the methodologies you intend to deploy. And then, and only then, are you ready to write your plan. You’ve found your direction!

Again, congrats on completing what may be your most challenging year as an Advancement professional. Take time to reflect, celebrate, and re-energize. And once you’re back to the grind, complete the Annual Giving Planning Tables as your first action. Then write your plan. I guarantee you next year’s results will be even better after taking these steps.

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