Starting a New Fiscal Year

Posted on 07/06/2021

For those who work in annual giving, things are always moving. There’s always an upcoming appeal to produce, another phone call to make, or a thank you note to write. There’s always a prospect who has yet to connect (or reconnect) with your institution. There are always reports to run, pledgers to remind, and volunteers to support.

Even though the annual fund doesn’t stop, it’s important to pause now and then in order to hit the reset button. And there’s no better time to do that than at the beginning of a new fiscal year. With each cycle comes the opportunity to make a fresh start. And while there will likely be big things you’ll want to accomplish in the months ahead, it’s often the little things you do in the first week or two of a new fiscal year that can really set the tone for a successful campaign. So, before you close the books and head out for that well-deserved summer vacation, here are 5 small – but significant – things you can do to get the new year started on the right note:

  1. Give thanks. Identify those people who really went above and beyond—especially over the past year—and let them know what a difference they made. This could include donors, volunteers, colleagues, and supervisors, and could involve something as simple as an email or a phone call from you. Even in the age of digital everything, don’t underestimate the value of a simple handwritten note.
  2. Look back. Set aside a couple of hours to review your results from the past year. Don’t make any assumptions. If you had a down year, identify when and where the declines occurred. If it was an especially good year, determine which strategies and tactics contributed to your success.
  3. Talk to peers. Reach out to colleagues at other institutions to find out how they did. Don’t just ask if they had a good year or bad year. Dig a little deeper. What was their biggest achievement? Their biggest failure? Their most innovative idea? Their proudest moment? What did they try that was new or different? What would they go back and change if they could?
  4. Set short-term priorities. The world’s outlook remains a bit uncertain in the months ahead. Although you’ll need to have goals for the year, it may make sense to establish targets and evaluate progress in 3-month increments. Operating in “quarters” will help to keep your program focused and nimble while making it easier to pivot if needed.
  5. Keep your eye on the big picture by defining success for the year ahead. While there will likely be many things that you’ll be expected to accomplish, set one overarching goal to guide everything you do. Ask yourself, “How will I know if I’ve been successful regardless of what challenges come my way?”

Above all, though, remember to pause. The uncertainty of the past year has no doubt been taxing on you and those around you. So stop, relax, enjoy some time off, or simply take a deep breath. Because when you come back, the fundraising cycle will start all over again.


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