15 Spring Cleaning Ideas for Your Nonprofit
Updated: Jul 8, 2020
This is a guest blog post shared with permission by Wild Apricot.
We may not be leaving our houses right now, but outside our windows, spring is definitely here.
And you know what that means – it’s time for spring cleaning!
You may have already Marie Kondo-ed your entire house, but have you thought about how to freshen things up at your nonprofit?
It’s a huge undertaking and let’s be honest, most of us procrastinate on it for as long as we can: not because it’s not important, but because we never seem to have the time to do it.
Depending on the nature of your nonprofit’s work, right now might be a great time to get things organized and cleaned up.
Of course, if your nonprofit is busier than ever dealing with the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, thank you for your work (and please bookmark this blogpost for later).
However, if you’re finding that things are a little slow right now and your nonprofit is staying put and waiting out the storm, this is a really good opportunity to do all those things you’ve never had time to do before.
It’s a chance to strengthen your foundation and quietly prepare to soar when the COVID-19 crisis is behind us.
In this post, we’ll cover 15 ideas you can do to spring clean your nonprofit.
Feel free to read them in order or jump to the ones that interest you the most:
1. Reach Out to Donors
Are there donors that you haven’t reached out to in a while?
Board members, volunteers or ambassadors that you haven’t heard from in some time?
The people who make up your community should always be at the top of your list of priorities. Since most people are at home right now, it’s a great time to check in with your existing relationships and find ways to nurture them.
Send them a quick email or give them a call just to check in. Make sure the outreach is personal (don’t just send a mass email) and you budget some time for a little back and forth conversation.
The people you reach out to will really appreciate hearing from you and will feel engaged and connected to your cause. If you do nothing else on this list, be sure to make some time to deepen your relationships and you’ll see the payoff for years to come.
2. Catch Up on Sending Impact Reports
Did you promise each of your major donors that you’ll send them a personalized impact report on an annual basis?
If you’re anything like the average nonprofit, you’re probably way behind on actually following through with this.
If you have some time on your hands, catch up on preparing these and sending them out. They don’t have to be elaborate — if you have several donors who support the same initiative, feel free to re-use most of the content and just personalize small aspects of the report.
Sending these is a great excuse for a personal touchpoint with your major donors, so you’ll be checking off two items on this list at the same time. Meanwhile, your donors will feel appreciated and happy to support the great work you’re doing.
3. Create Individual Plans
What’s your approach to stewarding your major gift donors and corporate partners?
Do you use a one-size-fits-all approach, or customize your strategy when it feels necessary to do so?
Both approaches will work for a little while, but they aren’t conducive to a long-term, mutually beneficial relationship.
Instead, it’s important to create customized plans for each of your major supporters.
Take some time to research and put together their profile, including things like:
· when and why they made their first gift
· subsequent gifts they made
· their giving capacity
· their interests
· events they’ve attended
· other important details
You can use a CRM to keep track of these details. Then, use them to create a plan, complete with action items and deadlines (which you can also set up in your CRM as reminders).
Plan out each of your upcoming stewardship touch-points and identify when and how you’ll be asking the donor for another gift.
How will you report on the impact of their support and make them feel appreciated? Will you be asking them to make a gift to the same fund in the future or will you have a better chance if you propose something new?
A customized individual plan will help you map out these details and think more strategically rather than coming up with something on the fly next time you run into your donors at an event. More importantly, a plan will ensure that you never drop the ball on anything or miss an opportunity, and that there are no gaps in communications with your donors.
4. Update or Create a Strategic Plan
It’s so easy to get lost in the day-to-day tasks and activities, constantly trying to stay on top of your emails and to-do list items.
But when was the last time you checked in with your strategic plan to make sure the things you’re spending your time on actually align with your mission, vision and values?
Use this time to look back at the plan you created, see if anything needs to be updated or changed and reflect on how far you’ve come in achieving everything you set out to do.
Better yet, if you haven’t created a strategic plan yet, spend some time on it now. A strategic plan is a roadmap of where you want your organization to go over the next few years and how you will get there, so it’s an incredibly valuable tool that should not be overlooked.
5. Organize Donor Files
What’s the state of your donor files?
When you’re looking for an email or letter you sent to a donor, or better yet, their signed gift agreement, are they easy to find in categorized and alphabetical folders?
Or is looking for something on your hard drive a little like looking for a needle in a haystack?
If so, it’s time to do a little organizing. If you’ve been dreading and procrastinating on this, just remember that spending some time on it now will save you hours of searching later. After all, your donor files are your most important asset — they tell the story of your organization’s relationship with your donors and inform how best to move forward.
6. Organize Event Photos
Remember that massive gala you hosted in 2013 where everyone looked stunning and where that amazing photographer you paid a lot of money for took a beautiful photo of one of your major donors standing alongside your executive director?
That photo would come in really handy right now as you’re putting together a new proposal for that donor and going on and on about your long-time and deeply valued relationship with them.
Problem is, you have no idea where that photo is because all you have is a bunch of folders named “Gala Photos” and all of your files are named something like IMG002356792.
If you have a bit of time to spare, organize your photos. At the very least, place them in appropriate folders and label each folder with the name and date of the event. If you’re willing to go further, create a document for each event where you list who is who in each of the photos. This will save you massive amounts of time — if you’re ever looking for a photo of a donor, all you’ll have to do is search their name in that folder and you’ll be able to see exactly which event folders you should look in and which files you should open.
Be sure to continue organizing your photos this way moving forward. After all, what’s the point of hiring an expensive photographer if you’re not going to use any of the photos because searching for them is too daunting of a task?
7. Clean Up Database
Your donor data is your most important tool, no question about it. Why is it then that it’s never 100% clean? There are duplicates, misspelled names, missing postal codes and a plethora of other issues.
Mistakes in your data can be quite costly — if you rely on segmentation or even simple mail merges and something goes out to the donor with false information, it can damage your relationship with them.
Take some time to clean all of this up. At the very least, fix small things that are obviously wrong (if Mr. John Smith receives one more letter addressing him as Mrs. John Smith, you’re not getting his next annual gift, sorry).
If you have missing email addresses or returned mail, feel free to reach out to the donors and ask them for the most up to date information. They’ll appreciate the outreach and you’ll be one step closer to a clean database.
8. Clean Email Lists
Once you’ve cleaned up your data, clean up your email lists. Wrong or out of date segmentation will, once again, hurt your relationships. There’s nothing worse than sending someone an email intended for lapsed donors when they’ve just made a new gift 2 weeks ago.
Also be sure to check your bounced emails – feel free to give the donors a call and ask them for an updated email address.
9. Refresh Print Collateral
When was the last time you printed your giving program brochure or the bookmark you send with your thank you letter? Is it time for a refresh?
If it’s been a few years, some of the information you put on these materials might be out of date. And even if everything is correct, it still wouldn’t hurt to freshen up the design, use a new quote, or update the statistics.
If you show your donors the same materials over and over again, they will lose their impact, and the message you so carefully crafted all those years ago will be nothing but colorful letters on a page.
10. Refresh Digital Assets
Just like print collateral, your digital assets might need a refresh, too. Take a look at your logos, branding guidelines, fonts, colors and see if anything could use a little modern touch.
If you have other digital materials like templates, e-cards or other branded pieces that might be getting a bit stale, give them a little makeover, too.
11. Refresh Website
Your website is one of your most important assets — it’s the first place that people visit when they want to learn more about your organization.
Does your website do a good job of informing new visitors and converting them into donors? If not, it may be time for a refresh. Check out this list of top features every nonprofit website should have, as well as these examples of effective donate pages, and start optimizing your website.
In fact, spring cleaning your website is such an important undertaking that we’ve created an entire checklist of everything you need to do to give it a fresh update.
12. Refresh Email Templates
Have you been sending the same emails for over a year now?
Perhaps your brand new donors won’t know the difference since it’s the first email they ever receive from you. But what about those automatic emails you send right after someone makes an online gift? By the 3rd or 4th time a donor sees that boilerplate message, none of it will have any real meaning.
Switch up your email messages with new language, new photos, maybe even a new signatory. Instead of always using your executive director’s signature, try sending an email on behalf of a board member, volunteer or one of the people your organization serves to make it just that little bit more personalized.
13. Refresh Letter Templates
A good rule of thumb is that your donors should never see the same letter twice. This can be challenging, especially for donors who make several gifts a year and need a thank you letter for each one. However, it’s entirely doable if you have a plan on how and when you refresh your letters.
Rather than updating the entire letter, you can create template paragraphs or bullet points that you mix and match. Be sure to include one paragraph that speaks about your current activities and latest impact. If you update nothing else, at least update this section once every quarter to include the most current information.
14. Update Process Documentation
There are many things you do in your day-to-day that you may be the only person who knows how to handle. While that may not be an issue right now, what happens if you go on vacation or leave the organization?
Documenting your processes may not seem necessary while you’re doing it, but it will come in extremely handy in a time of uncertainty, misunderstanding or even just extremely tight deadlines when you’re unable to remember everything on your own. Not to mention, documenting your processes is absolutely vital when it comes to handing over your job to someone else and training new staff.
It’s important to list what needs to be done, who is responsible for doing it, who is accountable and who needs to be involved. Prepare these documents with as much detail as you can and update them often.
Alongside your process documentation, it may be a good idea to create templates that your staff can use to communicate important information and requests. Some examples of these include meeting agendas, memos, special project requests, event briefings, etc.
15. Take Advantage of Professional Development Opportunities
The nonprofit sector is constantly evolving and it’s important to keep up with best practices and new strategies. There’s always so much to learn from fellow nonprofit professionals and experts in the field — setting time aside for professi