Five Things You (the Development Systems Manager) Can Do

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Here are a few tried and true tactics, modus operandi, processes, etc. that I have done throughout my career which always seem to work.

  1. At the beginning of each fiscal year, set up a meeting with each fundraiser to determine what cultivations and solicitations require your assistance - i.e., data output, reports, mailing files, etc.  Talk to them about what they are planning to do.  Ask questions about their efforts, who are they trying to reach; where will these people come from; what is the purpose of the effort, what is the critical timing of the effort, etc.  Create a Development Production Calendar.  Work back from each known cultivation or solicitation effort and factor in all of the action items; i.e., If you want to drop the mailing on May 15th -- when do you need to get the mailing file to the mailshop vendor; how soon should you start selecting data to review; who is going to write the letter; who is signing the letter; do you have letterhead, business reply envelope, business reply card, etc.
  2. Create an operations team within your department made up of members from the Membership, Development, Finance, Grants & Program areas.  Meet once or twice a month to discuss any issues or questions surrounding gift processing, acknowledgment processing and reporting.  Craft an agenda that you can accomplish within 1 hour.  Give everyone the opportunity to have a voice.  Have someone chair this meeting and publish the minutes of what everyone agreed to do.  Make it fun.  Have each department rotate and bring breakfast to the meeting.
  3. Budget yearly for staff training.  Plan a refresher course taught internally or send the staff out for vendor training,  In either case, you should design the curriculum to your staff's needs.  Find out if there's a user group for your software in the area.  If not, create one of your own.  Never stop learning or teaching.
  4. Meet with your Finance department and find out what you can do to help them, e.g., maybe there's a report you can generate that would help make reconciliation easier to manage; maybe you can review your fund code structure and see if  there is anything you can do to help synchronize your Development operation with Finance.  Remember to ask the question as, "What can I do for you? Not what can you do for me?"  Always offer the olive branch first.
  5. Consider and involve your front-line users in the solicitation process, e.g., if you are designing a business reply card, keep in mind that your data-entry staff are the ones who are going to have to read it and key the information from it into your database.  Is it clear?  Is it easy to read?  Have you done everything you can do to ensure that the information will be accurate and correct?  Have you pre-printed the name and address info and left an opportunity for address changes? 

In a Development operation, you can never plan for everything but you can plan for what you do know such as the quarterly newsletter; the year-end mailing; the Spring and Fall benefit.  By organizing and routinizing the known factors you are better able to handle the unknown, last-minute, drop-everything efforts that always show up when you least expect them to.  You cannot control Murphy's Law but you can be better prepared to handle whatever life throws at you.

Lastly, remember your fundraising system is like your organization's central nervous system.  You cannot affect one part of the body without affecting the whole.  Consider everyone involved when you approach a problem to solve and include them in the problem-solving.  You will be rewarded in the end.

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