Holiday carols tell us that this is “the most wonderful time of the year,” but if you’re heavily involved in fundraising from foundations, stress levels can shoot up as the days count down. For many organizations, the majority of their annual support arrives during the last quarter—or even the last month – so they’re often left wondering whether donors have deemed them “naughty or nice” right up until January 1, or even later. With the pressure cooker on max, what are we to do to keep from getting our proverbial whiskers in a twist?
If some of the foundations on your list haven’t acknowledged receipt of your funding request, or if their gift ordinarily would have arrived earlier in the year, touch base to confirm that your request was received (have the date you sent it and the request amount handy), is on track for a decision, and that no further information is needed. Depending on the communication method that’s worked best with those particular funders, a friendly call, email or letter will often yield positive results—you’d be surprised how often funding requests simply fall through the cracks without a specific intent to decline them. In the case of funders without online application systems, offer to resend your request if the funder doesn’t have it readily available, and ask for confirmation of receipt. A gentle reminder that you’re preparing your list of donors for the year and want to be sure the funder is included, and that your finance department will soon be closing the books for the year, will often facilitate a prompt response.
Check who’s taking vacation when
It’s likely you’ll need input from multiple people in your organization to complete your funding requests and reports. As December is such a popular time to be away from the office, it’s smart to identify the people whose help you’ll need as soon as possible and note when they’ll be out. This way, you can better plan what you should work on when, and won’t be caught by surprise when you need help from a key person on an application due tomorrow, only to discover that he or she is out for the next two weeks.
“You’d be surprised how often funding requests simply fall through the cracks without a specific intent to decline them.”
Review your deadlines for the next 30 days
Sometimes it’s such a struggle just to stay afloat each day that it can be challenging to plan beyond tomorrow. Taking some time to step back and look at all your upcoming deadlines for the next month is a sound investment in your sanity. First, it allows you to pace yourself and distribute your work across multiple weeks instead of being psychologically crushed by the magnitude all at once. Also, you may find that some tasks can be taken off your plate temporarily. For example, many funders with December reporting deadlines will understand if you call to request an extension to January—and the farther in advance you ask, the more understanding they’ll be.
Keep notes on what you’ll do better next year
Let’s face it: We don’t always accomplish everything we intend to by the time year-end creeps up on us. If you find yourself thinking, “We wouldn’t be in such a crunch if only we’d…,” embrace that as a learning opportunity and jot down some ideas to consider next year while they’re still fresh in your mind.
ASPCA Director, Grant Strategies
Claire Sterling works to increase the ASPCA’s grantmaking effectiveness and transparency by helping the Grants department to implement and promote promising practices in philanthropy, form partnerships with other philanthropic organizations and develop grant metrics for measurable outcomes. She previously did foundation fundraising for six years at the Foundation Center.
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