10 New Year’s Resolutions for Development Leaders in 2017

January 5, 2017

Ready to make 2017 the best development year ever? As you begin a fresh calendar year with your development team, consider adding some of these recommended resolutions to your list to create a vibrant, focused, and highly successful development shop. What additional resolutions are on your list this year?

1. Lead with Impact. Strike the words “we need…” from your vocabulary this year, and describe your case for support, cultivation discussions, and giving priorities by sharing a vision for the impact your organization can have through greater philanthropic investments.

2. Ask More. And we don’t mean just for gifts! What questions have you NOT asked your top donors? We often assume we “know” our top donors, which causes us to leave many important questions unasked. Even if you think you know your top donors, set aside time to talk with them again this year about their experiences with giving, their philanthropic strategy, and their priorities in giving.

3. Live your Leadership. Leadership work takes deliberate time, energy, and skill building. Set your intentions for which leadership skills and practices you want to strengthen and introduce this year, and set regular time aside in your schedule to devote to your leadership activities.

4. Upgrade Stewardship. Sometimes we forget to closely examine our individualized stewardship plans annually. Which donors are receiving individualized stewardship – and should there be more, or different, stewardship in place for the Top 50 donors to best celebrate, acknowledge, and inform their philanthropy?

5. Committee Commitments. Set new and inspiring annual goals for and with your development committee/board. Let the group co-create what goals they are trying to specifically achieve this year as a group, and then track and report towards these transparent and shared goals.

6. ROI Rules. Hold an annual ROI review of each department – asking managers and staff to determine which practices are high value and low cost (do more of these!), and which are high cost and low value (do less or get rid of these.) Teaching your team to be thoughtful and aware of the ROI paradigm in development will pay off down the road.

7. Dream Big. Put aside time to dream about the next tier of transformational giving to your institution. Is it a $10M gift? $50M? $100M? Where will it come from? Who would or could it come from? What would the organization need to do or look like to attract that type of transformational philanthropy? Perhaps introduce a quarterly leadership roundtable on creating a culture of transformational giving.

8. Growth Roadmaps. Set it, own it, and share it. Having a three-year or five-year plan of the development growth you aim to achieve, and the moves and activities it will take to achieve this growth, are the most important tools a leader can develop for success. What run rate are you at three years from now? How are you going to get there?

9. Just Say No. Saying no is a powerful way to ensure the success of your team and to realize the goals at hand. This year, every time you make a “to-do” list or prioritize your activities, make a list of those things you are not going to do, or stop doing, in order to achieve the goals at hand. Your team will be inspired and motivated by the focus and discipline you bring to the department by keeping the scope of the work focused and aligned with your goals.

10. Top 25 Discipline. Do the frontline officers on your team have Top 25 opportunity lists? You will likely say yes, but do you sit with them each month and routinely review progress on each opportunity? These are the gifts they plan to solicit at a major gift level in the next 6-12 months. Monthly disciplined review of the specific “when, who, how much, and for what purpose” of the Top 25 list creates focus, accountability, and ultimately greater productivity in major gifts.

We would love to hear from you! Which of these resolutions might you add to your list? What other professional resolutions do you have for your development leadership and team this year? Let us know!

– Alicia Reed, Vice President

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