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Five Theatre Fundraising Ideas to Start the Fiscal Year Off Right

Close up of yearly planner beside a pen.

At this time of year, many fundraisers have just finished up their fiscal year and all of the late nights, early coffee meetings and the overwhelming number of follow-up calls that go with it. It’s important to take a moment to celebrate all the work that’s been done, all of the connections made, and ideas picked up for next year.

This transition in the year is an excellent time to reflect on the lessons learned in the 12 months before — like what appeals and messaging worked better than others. With these in mind, they can brainstorm new plans of action for an even more successful next year.

Here are five ideas to consider to start the fiscal year off right. They have a special focus on maximizing time and resources to keep the momentum moving into the months ahead to generate more contributed revenue.

Five Fundraising Ideas to Help Maximize Time and Resources in the New Year

1. Draw insights from past campaign performance

The start of the fiscal year is an ideal time to dig into patron data for new insights that can inform the new year. Make sure to set aside time to pull reports on the previous year’s most successful campaigns. Find out the most attended events (fundraising and artistic alike) and the percentage of targets reached. 

With data from the past year in hand, fundraisers can map out what went well and brainstorm what could be improved. By consulting the data, organizations can avoid repeating strategies based on anecdotal feedback alone, and position themselves to maximize their ROI from the coming year’s campaigns. 

2. Set milestones for the upcoming fiscal year

Even at this early point in the year, fundraisers will likely have targets set. But reaching those targets requires setting smaller interim goals, and this time of year is the ideal time to make those.

Fundraisers should review each channel they are responsible for (e.g. donors under $5,000) and how much earned revenue they raised last year through each of those channels. They should then look at the revenue they earned as a percentage of total earned revenue for the year. Knowing the percentage of overall funds they raised can help them set milestones for how much revenue they need to bring in to meet the next year’s goals. Reporting will be crucial for this too.

After pinpointing the most important channels to focus on, the fundraising team will be able to focus their time in the new year and brainstorm strategies to maximize fundraising revenue. Having clear and attainable goals along the way to annual targets can help everyone track their progress, forecast income and celebrate even the smaller successes. 

Related reading: Managing Change (or How to Get Stuff Done)

3. Clean, sort and organize

Though not the most glamorous task, database cleanup is crucial this time of year (and fundraisers who do it will thank themselves later). Take the time to ensure structure and organization by:

  • Updating campaign structures: Start with high-level campaigns that repeat from year to year then move on to new ones. From there, fundraisers can create sub-campaigns for individual activities that contribute to those campaigns. Depending on how many efforts there are, it might make sense to add another layer of campaigns (sub-sub campaigns) to track each fundraising activity in enough detail and keep things organized. 
  • Organizing funds: When setting up the funds where all donations will eventually be allocated, make sure the language and purpose of each fund is clear to donors. That way they’ll know exactly where their contributions are going in the new fiscal year. 
  • Past donors: Now is the time to make sure each donor record is up-to-date and in the appropriate stage for each opportunity, and also closed out from last year.
  • Grants: Get on the same page with colleagues working on grants by adding any grant deadlines into the team’s system. Track all of the deadlines as activities the team needs to accomplish throughout the year on the funding organization’s record. 
  • Patron groups: Lean on audience behavior reports to think of ways to categorize patrons by shared characteristics, such as frequent bookers or lapsed donors. Make sure those labels are fully set up in the team’s CRM system so everyone can track customer segments throughout the year.

4. Use timelines to map out priorities 

Fundraisers can consolidate their priorities into a timeline to get a bird’s-eye view of the year ahead. Organize and target prospects, grant and campaign opportunities in the timeline to get a better idea of how to allocate staff schedules and resources. Proactively set dates throughout the year to evaluate the progress of each campaign. Add in reminders leading up to major appeals to ensure all mailings are polished and ready. This will not only help the team plan out campaign schedules and events, but also anticipate especially busy periods. 

With all of their efforts mapped out in one place, fundraisers can use timelines to track their progress toward departmental goals and know when to change tactics to meet them. 

5. Consult new industry research

As fiscal year planning kicks in, it’s important for fundraisers to focus not just on what has worked for their organization, but on wider trends in the field. Turn to industry research to see how other organizations successfully drove up fundraising revenue. Use reports and studies — like this one about donors’ online giving habits — to update tried-and-true strategies to reflect patrons’ current behavior. 

No matter how fleeting the calm at the start of the fiscal year might be, these ideas will help fundraisers set the rest of their year up for success. By analyzing their past wins, learning from losses and organizing their resources, fundraisers can position themselves to measure success and generate revenue from their future campaigns.