Fundraisers across the nation are starting to get jumpy. Panic is setting in with Giving Tuesday just around the corner and year end looming. Like ping-pong balls in the rafters, deadlines are looming, emails are flying, to-do lists get longer, and an eight-hour day seems like precious few hours to complete everything that needs to get done in time.
Such is the preparation for the largest fundraising month of the year.
As you may have noticed, there are no shortage of tips to make our year-end fundraising more impactful. But during this hectic time, it’s just as important to focus on tactics that will help you manage the season without having a massive meltdown. Consider these five tips to help reduce your stress levels to meet your year-end goals.
Create an Execution Calendar
If you don’t have a shared planning platform like Asana or Trello, start a shared Google doc to act as your execution calendar. List all of your campaign elements in a column on the left and the dates of your campaign time frame across the top. Tag the days you are sending email, when you want to post to social, the blocks of time when online ads will be running, and other activities you have incorporated into your campaign. Let your colleagues plug in their marketing and communication components. Share the link far and wide. It’s an easy way to keep your campaign organized, ensure your team is on the same page, and guarantee that you’re hitting all those vital campaign deadlines.
Keep a Campaign Reference File
Keep your notes, interactions, and ideas in one file to act as your main source of reference and help make future planning more efficient. Just this past week, I spent a total of three hours trying to track down last years’ sources codes, searching for budget approval emails that have been mysteriously disappeared, and digging in old folders to find graphics, email copy and schedules. What a waste of time! And not to mention downright infuriating.
Capture these flying communications and plop them all into one place. Record interactions you have with your colleagues, staff, and vendors. Take screenshots of emails. Make notes of important decisions. Then, book two hours on your calendar in January to organize these notes into the start of a cohesive planning document for next year along with some of your immediate thoughts on areas of improvement.
Schedule Focus Time
In a hectic environment with colleagues who have numerous priorities, it’s easy for your weekly calendar to get jam-packed with back-to-back meetings. I dread those Mondays when I look at my week ahead and it’s filled with a sea of shaded events. Take a moment to set aside focus time for yourself. Schedule a series of “work blocks” for campaign planning and preparation. Having a few hours to focus completely on your tasks will help you be more effective and efficient.
Trying to cram in a few minutes here and there to respond to emails, write copy, or set up donation forms will not only leave you stressed and anxious, it will likely produce some sub-par work. Take a few moments right now to book your essential work blocks for the next few weeks and stick to them! Don’t accept a meeting that’s been booked during your focus time. It’s easy to give up this space for other priorities and when that happens, we end up right back in that hectic campaign tailspin we’re trying to avoid.
Slow Down and Take Care
And finally, slow down and take care of yourself. Active breathing, frequent breaks, and short walks in the fresh air will help bring those stress levels down a few notches and help you be more productive and focused. Eat a healthy lunch. Take your vitamins. Get enough sleep. Stretch. Consider using background noise apps or pleasant music while sifting through emails or working on your tasks. I have been enjoying ambient videos on YouTube. The soothing background noise and delightful images instantly provide a wave of relaxation as soon as they begin to play. The Bossa Nova beach café, cozy jazz coffee shop, and campfire by the sea are among my favorites.
The year-end fundraising season brings a host of emotionally charged activities within the pressure of meeting extremely large revenue goals. Being intentional in our approach to stay calm and organized can help us reframe this hectic season to be one of fulfillment and satisfaction. And, on January 1 when we meet those astounding goals, we can relish in the joy of our achievements.