As donor relations professionals, we're often asked to do more with less—sometimes way less. If you're looking at your budget wondering where to save and where to spend, our team is here to help! Here are the things we love enough to keep in the budget:
Lynne Wester Something I am fierce to protect in the budget is technology. Anything that can save staff time, create an efficiency or make life easier is where I put the moolah. Sometimes you have to allocate resources to solve a problem and not defer maintenance too long.
I also think its important to look at how budgets have evolved over time. What is something you used to use all the time that has waned? What has picked up recently? Where is a place where a $500 spend could bring huge ROI. I also think it's a MUST to save a little money back for internal gratitude and stewardship and some fun items. Whether its nice boxes of notecards or treats for those partners who help make your work easier, those small gestures can save you thousands in the long run!!
ThankView—it is a tool we use in so many ways. We use it to say thank you, we use it to show impact, we use it to share information, we use it connect, we use it to celebrate milestones and birthdays, we use it to demonstrate progress, we use it to tell stories, we use it for tours of campuses, buildings, and research labs, we use it to introduce new leadership, we use it to celebrate our graduating class, we use it for Give Day, and we use it for reporting. It is a tool that is only limited by our creativity.
I also make certain to keep professional development in my budget. Even when times are tight it is imperative to me (and my team members) to keep learning. If we are going to be competitive and effective we need to find ways for ongoing education. There are very affordable ways to do that. Bring in a donor who has special skills. Host a faculty member who can share her knowledge. Start a book club - we did this at UC Davis and have a group of people who meet every other month to discuss amazing business and leadership books. CASE, AFP, ADRP, AHP all offer very affordable resources (and sometimes they are free if your organization is a member). I must also put a shameless plus in for the Donor Relations Guru because we make a very conscious effort to keep our webinars and classes affordable for all.
Endowment Reporting—it is our fiduciary responsibility as a non-profit to send our donors an annual reporting of their endowed funds. So I protect all funds for digital and print reports for our donors.
Jan McGuire Rather than specific items, my suggestion is to take a holistic approach to determine budget must-haves.
Think about budget items that perhaps started as “extra” or “new” that are now part of your standard operating procedures. For example, software like Sign-Easy or Docu-sign might have initially been “options” to give donors for signing their agreements. Now they the standard, the norm. You used to print and mail all of your reports; now, you send them through ODDER or other platforms. There should be no moving backward from software and platforms that allow you to serve donors digitally. Instead, look to reduce budget line items like outsourced printing and handling costs, along with postage and delivery services.
Use the same approach to professional development. There is so much content available now through webinars and online courses and often it can be accessed by multiple people for one price. You must keep current on industry trends and best practices. Try to save funds for professional development and subscriptions in your budget while cutting costs like travel and registration fees for in-person conferences.
No matter how the budgetary tides turn, I will always allocate resource dollars to impact reporting of some type. Impact reporting is the bedrock of donor relations and will always get us the most bang for our buck with donors. No matter what we are faced with, we must thank our donors and tell them how their gift was utilized. Because impact reporting can take so many shapes and forms, it can be cost effective and nimble in strained environments. I'll use email, video, less expensive printing, web content and more to share these stories no matter my fiduciary limitations!
If you have a portion of your program dedicated to individual engagement plans for top donors, its imperative to keep some budgetary resources at your disposal to carry out planned and even unplanned custom touches. These touches themselves don't often have to be costly, it may be a couple hundred dollars for printing of a custom impact and photo book, or a video from a beneficiary embedded into a video card, but you will need resources to get these projects done and nothing is worse than having great ideas and a fantastic opportunity with a VIP donor, but no resources to carry it out. Oftentimes donor relations can also help our organizational partners carry the burden of these costs if they have much smaller budgets. This partnership and cost-sharing goes a long ways in collaboration and internal buy-in. Make sure and retain custom engagement resources in your budgets too!
One aspect of the budget that I fiercely protect is team development. While being mindful of the fiscal environment of the moment, it's crucial that we invest in our people -- they are truly our greatest asset. This means ensuring we provide the essential tools they need to perform at their highest potential, from computer equipment to software that enhances collaboration, as well as support for team building, recognition and professional development. Maintaining this commitment requires creativity in those years when resources are more constrained, but it's important to demonstrate that our organization and its leaders remain dedicated to individual and team success regardless of the circumstances.
Also, spare a few bucks to stock up on glitter—no matter how gloomy the budget outlook is, everyone can use a little sparkle. :)
What do you love enough to keep in your budget? Please share in the comments below.
The DRG Group