What’s the best thing about a new year?

Is it a fresh slate and a chance to start again?

Maybe it’s having several days off to rest and recharge.

I think one of the best things about a new year is the chance to hit the ‘pause’ button.

We have the chance to stop for a minute and evaluate things in our lives.

What happened last year?

What would we like to do again if we could? What would we like to avoid?

Most people use this as a time to create resolutions around things like diet and exercise.

And there’s nothing wrong with that, as long as you have some support.

Otherwise, it’s tough to stick to those resolutions. That’s why gym membership skyrockets in January, then the gym parking lots are nearly empty by mid February.

Now that we have a new year before us, take the time to think about your nonprofit and your fundraising, and think about what you’d like to change.

Clearly, there’s the obvious: raise more money. Right?

But go deeper.

What do you REALLY want?

Less stress? More fun?

What will it take to create all that?

What will you need to add to make that happen? What will you need to take away?

Here’s my list of 10 things you need more of and 10 things you need less of to set yourself up for bigger fundraising in 2017.

More of this:

1. Video. Hands down, video is HOT, HOT, HOT! You can shoot short video updates for your newsletter and social media, video blog posts, and send thank you videos to your donors. It’s super easy to whip out a smart phone, shoot a 2-minute video and upload it. And your donors will love it!

My client Fast Friends Greyhound Adoption did a fantastic job during the holidays of sharing video updates on their Facebook page of dogs enjoying the snow for the first time, dogs getting treats provided by donors, and dogs just being dogs. Here’s one:

2. Donor-centered language. It’s time to use words that donors easily understand. Drop the jargon, acronyms, and your industry slang. Talk more about lives changed and less about how you did it. Talk about what the donor’s money will do and how it will make a difference. Keep it all super simple, not because they won’t understand bigger words, but because they’re busy and need to read and digest info fast.

My client Illuminate India did a great job with donor-centered language for their Giving Tuesday campaign in 2016. See if you can tell what your money will do when you give to them:

3. Mobile-friendly everything. Truth: more people are reading email and surfing social media on their phones than ever before. So, make sure your website is mobile friendly. Write short text so it’s easily read on a smart phone or tablet. Keep the graphics easy to read, too. Remember this – if they can’t see it, they can’t read it. And if they can’t read it, they won’t act on it.

4. Peer-to-peer fundraising. When people fall in love with your organization’s mission, they’ll tell others. Leverage that power with campaigns that people get excited about, and you’ll not only raise money, but gain new champions for your cause. Tools like CauseVox, QGiv, and Firespring can make quick work of it. Oh, and it can’t be “Support our annual fund”. Bad news – no one wants to support your ‘annual fund.’ Make your campaign about saving animals, feeding people, housing the homeless, etc. – whatever your nonprofit does that changes the world.

5. Meaningful thanks. Knock your donor’s socks off with a powerful thank-you letter. Tell a concise story that warms their heart. Tell them how their donation will make a difference. Make ‘em feel good.  The more conversational the letter, the better. Try this: read your letter out loud. If it feels awkward, go back and try again. Think of your thank you letter as a love note and see if that changes what you’d like to say.Here’s a terrific thank-you note I got recently from my friends at BESTWA:

6. Monthly giving. Donors who give regularly are the most loyal donors there are. If you don’t have a monthly giving program, start one. If you have one, grow it. Create a plan for when you’ll promote it, how/where you’ll promote it, and what you’ll say to inspire them to join. If you ask someone to give an amount that’s specific to your program, you’ll be more likely to get donors.

My client Draft Gratitude asks people to pay for 1 day’s care as a monthly donation:

My client Pet Community Center gives people 3 options for monthly giving that all tie back to their mission:

7. Focus on retention. If you want your donors to stick around, you need to keep them happy. When people feel appreciated, needed, and involved, they’ll keep giving. When they feel included and part of the team, they’ll become ambassadors for you. The best way to increase your retention rate is through good communication. I’m not talking about the newsletter you threw together just so you could mark it off the list. I’m talking about messaging that sizzles on the page and warms the reader’s heart after just a sentence or two.Seriously, stay in touch regularly. Tell them stories about lives being changed. Give them updates. Strive for good communication with your donors this year and you’ll see an increase in your retention rate.

8. Matching gifts. People love to get more for their money, and matching gifts prove that to be true. Don’t wait for a match to show up – go out and recruit one. Chances are good you’ve got a donor right now who would be willing for their gift to be used as a match. Matches are great for appeals, GivingTuesday, and more.

My client Girl Scouts of the Southern Appalachians raised more on GivingTuesday with a matching gift:

9. Ideal donor acquisition. Get in the habit of ALWAYS being on the lookout for new donors. You need a big, loyal donor base if you’re going to fully fund your mission, and building it is an ongoing task. Every event you host, every presentation you give, every story in the media must offer people the chance to get more involved in your work. Don’t miss opportunities to get names and contact information, and always get permission. Never add people to your list without their consent.

10. Stories/updates. Let’s face it: the reason that nonprofits exist is to make a difference, so give people evidence that you’re doing good work. Tell them stories about lives being changed to inspire them to give. Give them updates about how their donation is helping after they give.

Last year, my client Smoky Mountain Meals on Wheels raised over $12,000 in 12 days by telling stories on Facebook with a small following.

Spend some time reviewing this list of 10 things you need more of in 2017 and see which ones resonate with you. If one jumps out at you, start with that one.

Next week, I’ll share a list of 10 things  you need less of in the new year to substantially increase your fundraising revenue.