You’re still catching your breath from yearend fundraising efforts. But Q1 is here so it’s time to start thinking about what your development operation should be doing when everyone returns from the holidays. Here are three ways to make a strong development start in the new year.

(1) Set mailing schedule and projections.

If you outsource your mail program to a direct mail vendor (remember our golden rule to avoid direct mail vendors who charge per piece—bad incentives!), that firm should develop the year’s mailing calendar and projections in consultation with you. If they don’t, it might be time to find a new vendor.

(2) Review your major gifts program.

Sit down and do a full review of your major gifts program—both foundations and individuals—using your moves management system.

In all cases, major deadlines should be noted in your calendar and each donor/prospect should be assigned a timelined and staff-assigned next move or series of moves—be it a grant report, a new proposal, a quick personal note from the CEO, a letter of inquiry, or a meeting request.

(3) Refresh your messaging template.

The new year is the ideal time to review and refresh your organization’s messaging template. This ‘reservoir’ of essential messaging should form the foundation of your grant proposal templates, letters of inquiry, meeting requests, collateral materials, etc.

Sit down with key staff to review—or develop—your messaging template, and attendant materials. If there are no changes to messaging, the review process reinforces template messaging in the minds of the key staff who need to be deploying these messages with clarity and regularity. The process also engenders a culture of buy-in and participation among employees. Often, however, an organization will need to make slight changes to messaging. Year-over-year, programs, the operating environment, leadership, influence and efficacy, and other factors affecting an organization change. These changes need to be reflected in the organization’s messaging template. These sorts of changes are small and minor updates, not a complete rebranding process or change in organizational identity. Mission, vision, about, and value statements must remain constant, save for a complete organizational identity overhaul (if that’s in order, save it for spring or summer and consider enlisting the help of outside counsel).


American Philanthropic helps purpose-driven organizations achieve their fundraising goals, craft clear and compelling communications, and achieve greater influence. To learn more, visit