A new year or new financial year or just a quiet time around the office provides a great opportunity for a community group to look ahead and think about the things you're going to fix up and what you're going to struggle on with for another year.
Are you going to write that risk management policy you've been promising? Are you going to upgrade your software? Are you going to bring in new blood for the board? What must you do immediately? What can you put off (but shouldn't)? What should you think more about before acting?
This is the time to get the fundamentals right; to review your operations and plan your repairs.
Review your mission
- Is your mission statement up to date? What's changed since you wrote it?
- Is your mission fully understood? Is it precise enough to be helpful and flexible enough to be forgiving?
Review your plans
- Is your mission expressed in your strategic plan?
- Does your plan need to be modified to meet new contingencies?
- Do you have a strategic plan? A business plan? A technology plan? A risk management plan?
Review your governance
- Is your board/committee of management on the ball? Are they active in fundraising, busy networkers, regular attendees? Do you need to fix your meeting procedures or your recruitment process?
- Are your sub-committees active? Are too few people taking on all the work?
- Is the relationship between the staff and the board satisfactory?
Review your assets
- Do you have under-used or over-used assets (e.g. un-used or too much space)?
- Would an upgrade anywhere make economic sense?
- Can you get more out of what you've got?
Review your budget
Compare the figures with last year, to get a general sense of how you're doing, and use the trend to predict how you'll do in the coming year and whether that's good, bad or unsustainable. Prepare a report to the board filling them in on the situation and making recommendations for action (or inaction).
Review your personnel
Hold planning sessions involving volunteers and staff at all levels.
- Is your staff (if any) on top of their game?
- Is the organisation's personnel management adequate? How is morale?
- Is there a need to schedule further training or staff development?
- Are any of your staff or volunteers likely to leave, with or without warning?
- Do any of them have long service leave/retirement/promotion issues to be sorted out?
- Is your volunteer program under control?
- Can you get more volunteers/more out of your volunteers/more for your volunteers by changing practices?
Review your diary
Work out how long you have to meet your goals for the year. Trace the action plan back from events and put advance warning markers in the diary to give you warning of work peaks and also alert you to when you should start planning your fundraising events - or getting other people involved.
Review your contacts
- Is your membership/media/donor/volunteer list satisfactorily up-to-date - and marked with the date when you last contacted the person?
- Who do you need to remind of your existence by ringing up to say hello? Have you started approaching potential grantmakers to tell them what you do and what you have planned?
- What action do you have planned to build your lists?
- Are your practices geared to elicit and record contact data from every single interaction with every person you come across?
Review your fundraising
Work through the fundraising methods you used last year and work out where you get the most bang for your buck and where you have room for improvement:
- Membership dues. Have you sent out invoices? What are you doing to encourage people to pay early? What are you doing to expand membership? Are there any other potential members out there?
- Grants. What did you apply for? What programs are coming up? Have you formed a list of potential grants you could apply for?
- Special events. How did your events go last year? Did you make money? Did you make enough to justify the time and effort? What can you do to add value and increase the spend at your events?
- Donations. How much did you raise? What can you do to increase the average donation? Do you have online donations and do your donors have the ability to give by direct debit each month? (Go to GiveNow if you don't.)
- Bequests. Have you told your members and supporters that they can provide for your group in their will? Have you provided them with the wording for those who are keen to do so? If someone has left a bequest have you publicised it and what difference it will make to the organisation?
- Merchandise sales. Is there something you can sell? How did you go last year? Do you have stock left over and do you have a plan to move it (discount/special membership package/raffle prizes)? What worked and what didn't?
Do a brief progress report for the fundraising committee, throwing in five ideas for consideration to get their minds working along the right lines.