Whether you are beginning a new job, a new year or a new fundraising campaign, getting started can be the hardest challenge. You’re facing a vast unknown. How will donors respond to our messaging? What external factors will impact our fundraising efforts? What are the prior mistakes we should not repeat?

As you look forward to your next challenge as a fundraiser, here are a few things to keep in mind.

  1. Make sure your goals are crystal clear. It’s guaranteed that you are going to have more opportunities than you can sufficiently address. Determine what the goals are that you will be evaluated on, and also look at the goals you have to build a sustainable program. If your fundraising foundation is cracked and crumbling, simply piling up more on top of that might lead to total collapse.
  1. Get to know your numbers. If you’ve been at a job 20 years or 2 days, knowing current numbers that point to the health of your program is essential. Take the time to do a fundraising check-up. What are the problems you need to solve, and what is the first priority? Some things can compete against one another – for example, trying to increase the average gift while also trying to increase the number of gifts per donor per year – so set your priorities based on the severity of the need. If your organization is bleeding out donors at an alarming rate, deciding (for example) to redesign the newsletter masthead would be like putting a Band-Aid on a major arterial bleed.
  1. Don’t let a single voice influence you. It may be tempting to make decisions based on the five calls from donors complaining about something or the email from a board member that tears you into small chunks. Yes, you have to pay attention and address those concerns. But making a wholesale change based on a small minority of loud voices will likely not result in the best possible outcome. Use this feedback to lead you to looking deeper into the issue raised. Were there other comments that offset these? Were there goals you achieved that may not have been evident to outsiders? What was the end result in terms of net income or donor engagement? Begin by looking at the whole picture, not by reacting to the loudest pixel or two.

Fresh starts are enjoyable, but the typical day for most fundraisers means going back to the same problems that they left behind the night before. But the same advice applies – have clear goals, know the overall “health” of the program and look at the big picture, not just the loudest voice. The best way to succeed is to just get to work! Or as Henry David Thoreau phrased it, “Success usually comes to those who are too busy to be looking for it.”