As hard as it is to believe, 2017 will be here in two weeks and three days, folks. There will be much you won’t have any control over in the year ahead, but there are lots of things you can do to help yourself, and your organization, be prepared for the challenges of 2017.
Protect Yourself Online
If you haven’t already, let this be the year that you finally subscribe to a password-generating software program. PC Magazine has compiled their list and side-by-side comparison of the Best Password Managers of 2017. They’re not expensive. Just do it. Also, check that your virus protection and anti-spyware software are auto-running. If you don’t have those two things, buy them.
Get better performance from your computer (and prevent snooping)
Start a new habit of manually clearing out your web cache and cookies from your browser(s) every Friday. If you can’t remember the last time you emptied your computer’s recycle bin, here are nifty step-by-step instructions to auto-schedule Windows to empty your trash on a regular basis so you don’t need to think about it. Freeing up this space will make your computer a lot more efficient and work faster.
Tidy up your personal online presence
If it’s been more than six months since you updated your LinkedIn bio, now’s the time to go take a look at it. Is it time to update your Twitter bio? Pin a new tweet to the top? Change your cover photos? How can you freshen your online presence to be ready for the new year?
Clean up your online work space
Now’s a great time to clean up those bookmarks, too. Delete the ones you no longer need or have broken links. If your current folder system isn’t working for you anymore (or if you don’t have a folder system), try rearranging your favorite links in a new way. This is a good way to find (and start using) those great links that you found over the past year and forgot you’d saved.
Clean up your professional work space
Does your department’s section of your organization’s shared drive make you cringe? Are there fifteen blank “New folder”s in there? Old files from old projects that never got off the ground? Could you take an afternoon to clear that stuff up?
And what about the database? Now’s a great time to find all of the duplicate records and get them consolidated. And all of that information on those sticky notes stuck to your desk? It isn’t going to type itself up – get it into the database before the new year begins.
Gold in gold out
Speaking of the database, when was the last time your organization did an address update and/or a wealth screening? It’s impossible to raise money from constituents if you don’t know where they are, and it’s inefficient (not to mention potentially insulting) to ask people for the wrong level gift. Annual address updates are relatively cheap and just make good fiscal sense. And if you’re a reunion-based organization, think about running wealth screenings on your reunion classes a year before they happen to give you plenty of time to analyze the information, update ratings, research new prospects identified, and be prepared and organized to make the right asks.
Take some time to evaluate and plan
Outside of the annual fund and gift processing areas, December can sometimes be a slightly quieter time of year in many fundraising offices. Take this time to reflect on the professional goals you set for 2016 and see how you fared against them. What were some of the regular and unexpected challenges you faced? If they have potential to recur, can you help mitigate them in the new year? What are the top 3 goals you want to set for the new year?
Plan your year ahead
Now that you’ve looked at your goals, let’s take a look at the calendar. What do you need to be prepared for in each month? Are there always events planned for snow birds in February? A major symposium every May? Incoming parents event in September? Board member nominations in October? Think about setting a reminder 4-6 weeks prior to each deadline with a task list so that you’re completely prepared.
What about professional development?
Are there new/different conferences, seminars, or memberships that would enhance your skills? Start thinking now about ways to lobby for budget money to support this. Also, do you have a subject-matter or efficiency expert in the office? What tips and tricks could they teach you to increase your knowledge and/or help you streamline your processes? Is there someone you could collaborate with?
Update your templates
When was the last time you updated your report formats? Are they still working for you/end users? Has new information (like Twitter handle or LinkedIn page) become mainstream since you last updated them? Is there a format that would work better for end users (moving from Word to a database-generated form, for example, or vice versa)?
Thank people who have helped you this year
Did an info tech pro consistently and cheerfully help out when you were in a bind? Did your supervisor go to bat for you? Does a certain colleague always seem to know when you’re having a chocolate emergency? Take a moment to write an end-of-year thank you note to people who have been helpful or particularly supportive. It doesn’t have to be a big production – a simple line or two will do. If you’re not a note-writer, how about baking brownies? I’m sure those hard-working year-end data entry elves typing as fast as their fingers can fly would appreciate being appreciated. Taking a moment to thank people will encourage them to continue smoothing your path in 2017, and it will make you feel good, too.
In that spirit, I’d like to thank my awesome team for each suggestion that helped build this article! And now, over to you – what helpful hints do you have to help others be prepared for 2017?