By Jan McGuire
Fiscal year-end is fast approaching for many of us. A common question we are being asked here at the Donor Relations Guru Group is how should I make the best use of my remaining budget? Many of you have already experienced budget cuts. At the same time, some find themselves with a budget surplus (at least for this year!) as in-person events and other scheduled activities have been canceled due to COVID-19. There are a few key areas that we would recommend investing in, namely professional development and technology.
Now more than ever, the staff of a Donor Relations department will be looked to for answers in how to communicate with donors and steward funds during these unprecedented times. Professional development should be considered an investment in your organization's short-term and long-term success. As Donor Relations professionals, we should all view staying atop industry best practice as vital to our work and as a critical component of providing value-add to our organizations. Though in-person conferences remain postponed, professional development opportunities are still abundant through webinars, virtual conferences, and digital subscriptions. Many educational providers are offering promotions to pre-purchase learning opportunities for the remainder of 2020 and even for 2021.
It is also a great time to invest in professional development that strengthens the skillsets of your staff. Increasing proficiency in programs such as Excel may be a need for members of your team. If you have a writer on staff, they may be interested in classes that improve their writing skills. There are plenty of options available for distance learning, and many will allow you to purchase now for future use.
For technology investments, we suggest looking at two key areas: 1) what’s available that will raise the bar on the donor experience and 2) what could elevate your staff’s working environment.
To elevate the donor experience, invest in products like ThankView for communicating with your donors, ODDER for enhancing contactless, personal delivery of reports, and products like Braindates that will assist you in creating virtual donor events and engagement opportunities. All of these products and more are featured in our COVID-19 resource center.
Also, be sure you have the basics—and a few enhancements—to make the most of the videos you are creating. Lighting, microphones, and tripods can significantly improve the quality of your videos without breaking your budget. A list of our recommended products can be found here.
Take a hard look at your team’s working environment—the literal and the virtual. Would something like headsets be beneficial for their daily use, whether working remotely or transitioning back to being in office? We've championed the use of dual monitors or widescreen monitors many times before and continue to do so. It makes a world of difference when working with data—trust us! And then, there are your team's project management and file sharing needs. You may have implemented a system while working remotely, but if not, there are plenty of great products out there to help.
The bottom line for your bottom line (pun intended) is to look for investments that will make an impact long term. Investments in your donors' experience, your team, and in professional development will provide long-lasting benefits.
We love to hear from you—what are some other investments you are making now?