Old watch pointing midnight - New Year conceptWow! Can you believe January is almost over already? Just where has the time gone? If you are like me you feel like you just wrapped up Christmas and New Year’s. And still in the back of my mind is a review of the past year . . . all the goals that I wanted to accomplish and what I have been able to complete, or maybe more importantly what I have yet to complete. If you haven’t already, it’s time to revisit these goals and set them again.

We often talk about the importance of a health checkup for your database, or a File Audit. Along those same lines, what about an overview of your Development department and all the things that you wish to accomplish this year? Now is a great time to ask some self-discovery questions and assess just where you are now and where you want to go. One of my favorite quotes from the late Zig Ziglar is “If you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time.”

So let’s talk about some great questions to ask yourself about your Development program. Some of these may seem like no-brainers, but I find that sometimes you need to ask those simple questions just to make sure you haven’t fallen too far off course.

General Fundraising
• What are your weak areas that need attention this year?
• Are you upgrading your donors, or are they giving the same or less than last year?
• What is your donor retention rate?
• Do you have an acquisition program in place?
• How are the majority of your donors acquired?
• How do you welcome your new donors, and is it effective?

Major Donors
• Do you have enough case studies and programs to support a Major Donor program?
• How often is your Major Gifts Officer reaching out to each donor in their portfolio?
• What is your ratio of donors to officers?
• Have you screened your database recently to identify donors with hidden potential?

Planned Giving
• Are you regularly asking donors if they would like to leave your organization in their wills?
• Are you doing any type of age-append or search for potential Planned Giving donors?

Special Events
• How successful and profitable were last year’s events?
• Have you reviewed the specific elements to determine what worked and what did not?
• Have you looked into your file to make sure you are inviting everyone that you should?
• Are there other geographic areas of concentration that could benefit from an event?

Direct Mail
• How often are you mailing your donors?
• How often are you testing new packages?
• Have you tested variable dollar-asks in your packages?
• Are you mailing the right segments, or are there segments that you should suppress because they are under-performing?
• Have you tested using handwriting like Genuinely Penned™ in your packages?

Telemarketing
• Does your organization engage in telemarketing campaigns throughout the year?
• Do you regularly call donors even if it is just to thank them?

Acknowledgment Program
How often are you sending your acknowledgment messages?
• Is there an ask incorporated into the acknowledgment message?
• Does your acknowledgment program pay for itself?
• Have you updated your text recently to reflect what the organization is doing?
• Have you tested your acknowledgment package to make sure that you are using the most effective package for your donors?

Monthly Donor Programs
• Do you have a monthly giving program?
• Are you actively growing that?
• Are these donors sent notifications or correspondence each month?
• When was the last time that you thanked them for their loyal support and showed them what their monthly gift is doing for the organization?

While this may be a lot to review for some, others may find that there are really just a couple of areas to review and improve this year. Some of the keys to keeping a healthy donor base include retaining at least 50% of your active donors year after year, acquiring new donors to replace those that have chosen not to give again, and communicating often with your donors.

I say it’s not too late for New Year’s Resolutions, and it’s not too late to say, “Happy New Year!”

Traci Prantner is a Business Development Strategist at Innovairre Communications, which supports more than 500 nonprofit organizations around the world. Contact us at Answers@Innovairre.com. Subscribe to our newsletter here. Follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter.