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By: Nancy E. Peterman, Partner
The first weeks of January have most likely been focused on ensuring that activities such as gift entry and acknowledgment letters are current. Now that the first two weeks of the year are behind us, it is a great time to tackle the following:
- Evaluate your year-end and holiday operations. If you granted staff liberal leave time with a skeleton crew in place, how did that work? Did your team remain current on year-end giving with gifts entered and acknowledged within three to five business days? Were phone calls returned and emails answered daily? Were stock gifts sold and recorded? Even during the holiday season, donors expect their credit cards to be processed, checks cashed, stock gifts received, and everything acknowledged in a timely fashion. If there were any lapses, or unhappy donors, an immediate apology is essential to let them know you are paying attention. Some offices worked double shifts and weekends throughout December to ensure that lag time was minimalized. Seek input from the team on how the organization can improve its responsiveness. Keep in mind that it is easier to implement new procedures now for next year, while the results of this past month are top of mind, and expectations for next year can be managed.
- Review individual performance. For institutions with a June 30 fiscal year end, the year is half-over. Meet with each staff member one-on-one to review her/his performance even if that hasn’t been the practice in past years. Ask how you can be of assistance to members of the team and listen to their responses. Do this whether the performance has been positive or negative. For high performers, there may be barriers or irritants that you can remove to make them even more productive, effective or satisfied. For those not meeting expectations, use this opportunity to coach, offer training or suggest ways to get back on track. Document all conversations, both as a reminder for you, and for the record.
- Clean out your office. If you didn’t do this in December, now is the time. Get rid of outdated brochures and files. Toss the old Current and Advancing Philanthropy magazines; the content is all on-line. Scan letters or other documents into your database or electronic file.
- Organize your electronic files. Get rid of multiple versions of documents, such as proposals, agendas, notes, and minutes. Make sure that the final version is saved. Check your back-up procedures and test to confirm that all files are saved, and recovery procedures are in working order. More than one organization has discovered that back-up files were incomplete or not restorable. Unfortunately, this is usually recognized during a crisis when there is little recourse. And, this is a good prelude to the next suggestion.
- Assess technology needs. It has been said that January is a good time to buy new electronics. My computer somehow knew this and crashed last week, but fortunately not until I finished backing up all those easily referenced files onto our network and a couple of flash drives.
- Eliminate procrastination. “It’s even more difficult to get work done when you’re stuck at the office, wishing you were enjoying time with family and friends,” according to Travis Bradberry, author of Emotional Intelligence 2.0 and president of TalentSmart, and quoted on LinkedIn Pulse. He referenced a 2015 study by Bishop’s University that found a link between procrastination and hypertension and heart disease. Bradberry offered four steps to overcome procrastination including 1) Dividing the task into smaller steps, 2) Cutting the distractions, 3) Tying easy tasks to the big picture, and 4) Visualizing success. He added, “When you believe you can do something—and you visualize the positive things that will come from doing well—you equip yourself to succeed.”
Wishing you a healthy and productive New Year.