What To Do If It's Just You: Donor Communications

Fri, February 12, 2016 12:51 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

By Susan Black, CFRE
Allene Professional Fundraising

(This is the third in a 3-part series about one-person fundraising shops.)

Last time we talked about how to avoid burn-out in a small shop by focusing on the first of the two most important aspects of your development operation: your board.  This month we'll focus on donor communications, the second part of the approach. 

As the manager of a one-person shop, you will need to make sure that your thank you letters go out, that your data is clean, that you know your donors, and that you keep in touch with them on a regular basis through phone calls, letters, and other communications. This is by far the best use of your own time beyond managing the board and the committees. Failing to keep up with these tasks will inevitably lead to lost donations.  Part of your job is making it look like everything is calm on the surface even if you are paddling furiously under the water!  Here's how to tackle this challenging feat:

  1. Set aside time each week to accomplish these activities.  Find time in your week or better yet, a few minutes each day,  to work on some of the "scut work" of correspondence, filing, and database entry.  Don't let these things pile up or they will become overwhelming.  
  2. Invest in a good database.  The last thing you need as a one-person shop manager is to wade through volumes of spreadsheets and lists trying to find donor information.  Instead, make the investment in a good, low-cost web-based database system.  You don't need anything fancy but you do need something that has built-in capabilities to collect the information you need, to sort and manage that information, and to provide relevant reports.
  3.  Hire a good assistant. I realize you might not be able to hire someone but find a part-time person if you can.  If not, you may be able to find willing volunteers on your board or through your local senior center, place of worship, high school, or college.  Get creative and get the help you need.
  4.  Find a reliable printer with a good in-house designer and do as many of your publications online or electronically, as possible. I can't tell you how much time and money I have saved by finding a printer that is located in a small town (their prices are far less than the printers in my city), and that has a good, capable in-house designer.  This vendor provides high-quality work and is like having a "virtual" graphics department. I've also learned to do my own e-newsletters and other simple publications like postcards and flyers using desktop publishing and on-line resources.  It's worth your sanity and your budget to seek out a good printer and learn these programs yourself.

Susan Black is a respected fundraising consultant and one of the many great presenters you'll find at the upcoming 2016 DSAIA Leadership Conference. Learn more about her at

See Susan's sessions as well as the full agenda of offerings here

I want to tell you what WONDERFUL time I had at the conference. I learned so much and came away with lots of ideas for our organization. -Barb Waddle, The Upside of Downs of Northeast Ohio


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