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6 New Year’s Resolutions for Nonprofits

10 min read
November 11, 2020
Ronnie Gomez headshot
Ronnie Gomez
Content Marketing Manager, Neon One

There’s something special about the new year. It’s a great time to mentally reset and set both personal and professional goals for the next 12 months. We can’t tell you what to plan for on a personal level but, if you’re looking for New Year’s resolutions for nonprofits, we have some ideas.

Here are six resolutions you can create for yourself (or your organization as a whole!) and some insight into how to make them a reality:

Let’s take a look!

Resolution #1: Clean Up Your Database

Good data is an invaluable asset. Bad data can be a liability. Disorganized or inaccurate data can cause issues as you engage your supporters, whether that’s something small, like misspelling a donor’s name, or something larger, like sending an inappropriate appeal. 

This year, resolve to make sure everything in your system is accurate. Well-managed data will make your job easier and set the stage for more effective donor communications and better retention rates.

Take some time to review your database. Follow up on any miscellaneous transactions you haven’t recorded yet, enter any notes you may have from in-person meetings with donors, and check your data for duplicates or errors. 

Here are a few other things you might consider doing to start your year off right:

  • Make sure all records are complete. Fill in any missing info, including preferred salutations and any other fields that could be considered “optional.”
  • Scan gifts to ensure everything has been recorded properly. This will help in your reporting and visualizing your performance for the past year.
  • Start the year off fresh with an NCOA update if you haven’t done one recently.
  • Consider other options that can enhance your data, like matching gift info or prospect research.
  • Make sure other staff understand your processes. Anyone who enters information into your donor database or CRM should know how your data is recorded and used. Cover important topics like proper data entry, updating records, and using data in your day-to-day processes. Give everyone a quick refresher on your nonprofit’s best practices so your data will be accurate throughout the year.

Clean data makes it possible to develop deeper relationships with donors, improve your fundraising, and further your mission. Organizing and managing it well is a great new year’s resolution!

Takeaway: Having clean, accurate data will make you more successful. Taking some time to clean up your database and review your processes will help set you up for success in the new year.

Resolution #2: Use Your Data Well

Once you’ve got clean, usable data, you’ll want to make sure you put it to good use.

Your nonprofit donor database contains a wealth of information. You should be able to access personal information about your donors, review their donation history, identify the events they love, review communications preferences, and much more. Use the data you already have to inform your decisions throughout the entire year.

Go beyond simply scanning a donation history before reaching out to a donor. 

Before you send an email, for example, take a close look at the statistics of your past email campaigns. What subject lines got the best open rates? Which emails resulted in the most donations? Using your past data will help you craft a message that resonates with your donors and improves your present performance.

You can use your data in lots of different ways, including:

  • Segmenting your lists so your donors only receive relevant communications
  • Getting valuable insight into your donors’ motivations for giving
  • Understanding which communication channels are most popular with your supporters
  • Painting a picture of your donors’ demographics, passions, and preferences

The more you’re able to use your data in your day-to-day operations, the more you’ll start identifying different opportunities to connect with your supporters in the most effective ways.

Takeaway: Review data about your donors, your fundraising campaigns, your communication channels, and other operations. Then, brainstorm some ways you can use the information in your database to improve your activities this year.

Resolution #3: Focus on Your People

The nonprofit sector is experiencing a donor retention crisis: In 2022, retention rates hovered around 18% for first-time donors. That means that nearly one in five donors never made a second gift. 


Nonprofits with low retention rates are always on the “acquisition treadmill”—they’re constantly working to find new supporters only to lose most of them after their first gift. 

This year, commit to improving your retention rates by shifting your focus to the people who support you, not just the money they give to your cause.

Here are a few simple ways you can make this subtle but important shift: 

  • In your automated thank-you messages, focus on thanking the donor for their kindness, generosity, and dedication instead of focusing mostly on their transaction details
  • Speak to your donors’ motivation to make a difference by regularly sharing stories and impact statements
  • Segment communication lists, then use them to create personalized messaging that’s highly relevant to your different donor groups
  • Get to know first-time donors by sending them a survey that includes questions about why they donated and where their interests lie (and then follow up with them using that information)
  • Don’t make every interaction an appeal—reach out to donors just to say hello, tell them you appreciate them, or send them an update about a past project they supported

Once you’ve got some donor retention processes in place, turn your attention to retaining other types of supporters, too. Look for opportunities to improve your relationships with your members, your volunteers, and even other employees

Takeaway: Keeping your donors, members, volunteers, and other supporters engaged year-round is the most efficient way to build a thriving community that rallies around your cause. Prioritize connecting with people—they’ll be much more likely to stay involved!

Resolution #4: Give Your Donors Memorable Experiences

There’s no time like the present to optimize your donation page. And our favorite trick for identifying areas to improve is easy and only takes a minute. 

Put yourself in your donors’ shoes and make a gift to your own nonprofit. See what it’s like to go through the entire donation process. Make a note of anything that feels clunky, slows you down, or makes you frustrated.

It may also be helpful to enlist a friend, a family member, or even a new employee who has not donated to your organization before. Depending on their familiarity with your organization, they may bring a more objective perspective to the table. A fresh set of eyes can help you determine what’s resonating with donors and what may be going over their heads.

Whether you make a donation or ask a friend to do so, ask these questions:

  • Is it easy to find the donation form on the website?
  • How long is the donation form? Can you remove any extra fields?
  • Does the form include recurring options?
  • How long did it take to get a confirmation message or a thank-you message?
  • Were any of the design elements distracting or hard to use?
  • Do you think you would give again? Why?

Once you’ve completed the process, share your insights with others, and make adjustments to improve the giving experience. When in doubt, listen to your donors—ask them what they like and dislike about the giving experience.

Takeaway: A poorly-designed, clunky, or outdated donation form can discourage your supporters. Take a few minutes to evaluate your page and the donation form itself, identify areas you can improve, and polish your giving experience. Here’s a nonprofit donation form example that will give you some ideas!

Resolution #5: Revamp Your Website

When was the last time your website got an update? If it’s been a while, it might be time to schedule some changes. 

Website design best practices, search engine algorithms, and donor preferences are always evolving. If your website doesn’t evolve along with them, you’ll have a harder time reaching new audiences and inspiring them to support your cause.

Assemble a team of folks who will be responsible for getting your website in tip-top shape. Don’t overlook any volunteers or board members who have relevant skills! Together, review your site and come up with a plan for making necessary updates and improvements. 

Some areas you may want to evaluate include:

  • Your branding, including colors, fonts, and logo usage
  • Your website’s overall design, including things like mobile-friendliness and navigation
  • The stories you share on various site pages
  • Your SEO visibility and website content
  • Technical optimization and website personalization

Don’t know where to start? Take the Website Optimization Assessment! Answer a few questions about your website and receive a personalized list of resources you can use as you start planning your updates.

Takeaway: Your website is the cornerstone of your organization’s online presence. If it’s been a while since you’ve updated it, this is the perfect time of year to start thinking about upgrades and improvements.

Resolution #6: Make Time for Professional Development

Claim some time for your (professional) self! There are an overwhelming number of nonprofit conferences, workshops, consultants, eBooks, and other resources available to you and anyone else on your staff who wants to brush up on your skills. 

This year, try identifying at least one area or skill you’d like to focus on. Then, do some research to identify resources that can help. 

You may identify something you can learn from reading an eBook or settle on a topic you’d like to learn about at a conference or workshop. If it’s a system-specific skill, check with your service provider or a certified consultant to learn about any training they can provide.

Takeaway: Investing in yourself is important! You’ll always be on top of changing trends in the sector, build a great skill set, and avoid stagnating. And, when you invest in your professional development, you also invest in your organization. The nonprofit industry is always changing and growing, and keeping up with current trends and best practices will help your organization stay relevant.

What Are Your Favorite New Year’s Resolutions for Nonprofits?

What will you prioritize in the coming year? Will you focus on maintaining and using your organization’s data? What about focusing on your retention rates? Will you focus on giving your supporters a great user experience by optimizing your website and donation form? Can you find some professional development opportunities that will help you and your organization thrive?

Whatever you decide to do, we hope you’re part of a community that will encourage you as you pursue your new year’s resolution. Try joining our Connected Fundraising Slack Community! You’ll be able to connect with hundreds of other fundraisers, learn from each other, and celebrate each other’s victories.

Join the discussion in our Slack channel on connected fundraising

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