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4 do’s and don’t’s for documenting your fundraising procedures

Posted August 19, 2021 by Virginia Davidson

documenting fundraising procedures

Documenting your fundraising procedures might seem like a tedious undertaking. But its value to your organization’s mission and future sustainability should not be overlooked. Here are tips for documenting procedures that will be useful and helpful to you, to colleagues, and to future staff down the road.

Fundraising Procedure Tip #1:  Document the “why”

Do create documentation that explains the “why” behind your organization’s use of your database. This ensures that any new employee (or even you when you’re feeling overwhelmed) has a clear understanding of why these procedures matter.

Don’t re-create the resources of your donor management system. If you’re using a donor management system like Little Green Light, your software platform likely has a robust knowledge base of instructions. These articles are updated regularly and provide guidance on things like how to enter a gift or generate a mailing.

Example

In your documentation, explain that:

  • Your organization’s year-end appeal is active from October through December 31 each year
  • You solicit donors who’ve given in the past five years, event attendees over the past fiscal year, and non-donors who’ve been added to the database in the past three years
  • When a gift comes in from someone who was solicited, you code the gift record to that appeal so that you can report on how many constituents donated and how much was raised by this effort
    • Keep in mind: If gifts aren’t coded as described, it won’t be possible to accurately report on your appeal

Fundraising Procedure Tip #2: Update your documentation on a regular basis

Do update your documentation on an ongoing basis, recognizing that it’s an active document that is never fully finished.

Don’t carve out a week to create documentation but then forget to make a habit of referring to it.

Example

Your documentation will be most relevant and useful if you create it in smaller sections while going through the procedures you’re describing. This method also ensures that the documentation will be created rather than remaining on a to-do list for “someday,” and also that it won’t be stagnant or outdated. Expect to update it regularly.

Fundraising Procedure Tip #3: Answer questions as they arise in your documentation

Do recognize that documenting your procedures may prompt questions.

Don’t avoid getting and recording the answers in the documentation.

Example

As you document procedures, you may wonder why things are done in a certain manner. Or, it may occur to you that there’s a more efficient way to handle things. Don’t gloss over these thoughts. Check with coworkers and take the time to consider if your organization wants to modify certain procedures.

Fundraising Documentation Tip #4: Ensure the documentation is accessible to all

Do store this document so it’s easily accessible.

Don’t assume it will be used only by you or by a future employee.

Example

If you’re unexpectedly out sick for a period of time or depart the organization, it will be important for other employees to be able to access and use this document. Remember, documented procedures are most useful as a living document that will be updated and used frequently. That can’t happen if no one knows it exists or how to find it.

Conclusion

Documenting your procedures and keeping them updated requires commitment, but the payoff is high in terms of how it can improve your operation overall, over time. Create and update your procedures on an ongoing basis, and you’ll be building a valuable and lasting resource for your organization. This process also provides an opportunity to regularly reflect on your procedures and continually improve them over time.

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