Let Go and Freshen Up: Spring Cleaning for Your Nonprofit

The Great Clean-Up

One thing I’ve noticed now that it’s officially spring is the number of articles about spring cleaning and decluttering. For many of us, these types of projects can be overwhelming, especially if we’ve ignored that mutating pile of paperwork or our closets are overflowing with so much stuff we can barely open the door.

As much as I dislike cleaning and organizing, I’m happy once it gets done. Often getting started is the hardest part.

Your nonprofit organization should also do its own version of spring cleaning and decluttering. If you’re feeling reluctant about taking on these so-called cumbersome tasks, just think how happy you’ll be once they get done.

Let’s get started!

Clean up your mailing lists and database

Did you have an influx of address changes, returned mail, and bounced emails after you sent your year-end appeal? This is a good time to clean up and update both your direct mail and email mailing lists.

Don’t wait until right before your next mailing to clean up your donor data. Even though it’s tedious, have someone who’s familiar with your donors (your development director?) go through your mailing lists and database to see if you need to make any additions, changes, and deletions.

Be meticulous. No donor wants to see her name misspelled, be addressed as Mrs. when she prefers Ms., or receive three mailings because you have duplicate records.

Your donor database is an important tool and it needs to be up-to-date and filled with accurate information about your donors.

Letting go

As you clean up your donor database, pay particular attention to your lapsed donors. It may be time to take some of them out of your active donor file. Who are these people?  If they’ve donated in the past, is it likely they’ll donate again? For example, the mother of a former staff member who left five years ago is a good candidate for your inactive file.

Send one more targeted mailing to people who haven’t donated for at least four years. Let them know you miss them and want them back. If you don’t hear anything, let them go. 4 Tips: When to Remove a Lapsed Donor from Your Database

Do the same thing with your email list. It doesn’t make sense to send email to people who don’t respond to it. Give these people a chance to re-engage, and if they’re not even opening your emails, move them to an inactive file. Why Deleting People from Your Email List is a Good Thing

But wait you say, we want as many people in our database and email lists as possible, don’t we?  No, you want people who are still interested your organization. Quality wins over quantity.

You can save money by not mailing to people who aren’t going to support you and aren’t paying attention to you.

Freshen up your messages

Now that you’ve pared down your mailing lists to active donors and supporters, they deserve something good the next time you communicate with them. Will they get that?

Take a good look at your appeal letters, thank you letters, and other content. Have you been using the same stale, old templates for years?  Are your letters all about how great your organization is and filled with jargon?  Are your newsletter articles mind-numbingly boring?

Freshen them up with some donor-centered content. Can Your Organization Pass the Donor-Centered Test?

Don’t put it off too long

Your clutter and dust at home won’t disappear on their own. The longer you ignore it, the worse it gets. The same is true for your nonprofit.

Take on your cleaning and organization projects as soon as you can. You’ll be happy once they’re done.

Nonprofit Spring Cleaning Part Two – Out With the Old, In With the New


Spring is slowly inching its way into the Boston area.  I hope it feels more like spring where you are.

Many of you may take on spring cleaning projects in your home.  Maybe you give your house a good cleaning and throw out a bunch of stuff you don’t need.

Your nonprofit organization could probably use a good spring cleaning too.  In my last post, I wrote about tackling your donor data.  Here are a few more spring cleaning projects to take on.

Assess your progress

We’re three months into 2015. Now is a good time to look at your fundraising and marketing plans to figure out what’s working, what isn’t, and if you’re on target with your goals.  If you never created these plans, then one of your first priorities is to do that.  Don’t go through the year without having any plans in place.

It may be too early to do too much of an assessment, but if something clearly isn’t working or needs to be improved, you still have time to fix it.

Update your website

Has it been awhile since you updated your website? Even with the popularity of social media, people will go to your website for information, whether they’re first-time visitors or long-time supporters.

Your website must be up-to-date and user-friendly.  Use the checklist in this post to help you create an engaging website. Does Your Website Need a Tune Up?

Dust off your appeal letters and thank you letters

Take a good look at your appeal letters, thank you letters, and other content.  Have you been using the same templates for years?  Do your letters sound like one big, boring bragfest? Freshen them up with some donor-centered content. Can Your Organization Pass the Donor-Centered Test?

Is it time to let it go

Your organization may have held an event for years, but it takes a lot of staff time and doesn’t bring in that much money.  Just like your favorite sweater that’s looking pretty ratty now, it may be time to let go of this event and find a different way to raise money. Here’s a great take on auctions. Is your live auction hurting your fundraising?

Aim to do better

If you’re not connecting with people on Twitter, it doesn’t mean you need to give up on it.  Maybe you’re not using Twitter correctly.  Perhaps you’re bombarding people with messages that are all about you instead of trying to start conversations and build relationships.

Don’t jump into the latest craze 

It’s tempting to try something new, but don’t just jump into the latest craze. Whatever happened to Ello,anyway? You’ll need to decide what makes sense for your organization.

Again, focus on what you can do better.  Your brand new shiny object can be creating donor-centered content and building relationships.

Take time this spring to make the updates and changes you need. What types of spring cleaning projects do you plan to work on?

Read on for more about spring cleaning for your nonprofit.

Time for Spring Cleanup!

Spring cleaning!! 3 questions to clean up your fundraising office

Photo by Karin Bell