’m a big fan of Jamie Oliver, amazing cook, food advocate and revolutionary, and yes, inventor of The Naked Chef cookbooks and TV program. The idea behind The Naked Chef was to strip food down to its bare essentials – to prove that you don’t need to dress up ingredients or buy a load of fancy gadgets to make something really tasty.

I love this logic! I think it applies beautifully to fundraising, so it’s the basis for this month’s tip.

Focus on the essentials and get back to basics

  • Every day I meet fundraising professionals who …
  • Are too busy to talk to donors;
  • Want to grow their revenue but have no idea what their key performance indicators are;
  • Want to ask for major gifts but don’t have a written or agreed upon case for support;
  • Lack the information/time/budget to report to donors on how donations are used;
  • Are investing to bring in new donors when they aren’t properly stewarding the ones they have;
  • Are fundraising without clear goals and objectives;
  • Don’t know the ROI for their fundraising activities.

I believe we all find ourselves in times and places where we’ve lost sight of our focus or priorities, both in terms of our work and our careers. As we sit on the cusp of a brand new year, it’s an ideal time to take stock, to have a long hard look at what you’re doing and why. And perhaps it’s time to make some changes … make some promises to yourself and to your donors.

Naked basics

Here’s a list of basic things we all can (and should) do.

Talk with your donors every day – make the time consistently to get on the phone, write a note, visit someone, build relationships and solidify your donor family.

Ask for money – are you asking everywhere you can be and are your asks solid and inspired?

Say thank you.

Be passionate and show it to your colleagues, your staff, your donors and everyone in your constituency circle.

Tell stories that make people laugh, cry and love your cause – tell stories in your fundraising appeals, newsletters, on your website and at events.

Be accountable to your donors, your employer and your team – analyze, report, steward.

Be strategic – know your key performance indicators or benchmarks and use that information to inform your choices and plans going forward.

Have a plan with a budget and clear goals and objectives.

Evaluate your fundraising programs and activities to identify ROI in the short and long term.

Say no to anyone or anything that takes you away from your donors and goals (this is a tough one for a lot of people – I suggest saying it out loud to practice).

Have a case for support that clearly and passionately articulates your cause (make sure it’s written down and agreed upon).

Have a system that is documented for everything from gift processing to strategic planning.

Inspire others – smile, be positive and proactive.

Be curious, open minded and ready to learn.

I know, easier said than done! We all intend to call that donor, develop that plan, do that analysis, write those thank-you notes. But try this: pick one or two things you think will improve your fundraising program and results, make some room in your day for them and work at creating the habit of doing whatever it is you’ve chosen. Create some awareness and sharing opportunities around the tasks you’ve chosen. Tell someone what you’re doing or what you’ve done and celebrate it.

Over lunch with client Tracy Paterson recently, we talked about the naked fundraiser idea (thanks Tracy!) and how hard it can be to stick to your guns about some of these very fundamental things. Tracy told me a story about a fundraiser she knew who insisted that he and his staff spend their days talking with donors, which they in fact did. He refused to attend meetings and when he absolutely had to, he insisted everyone stand to ensure nobody got comfortable enough to waste time that could be better spent talking with donors. He had to say “no” frequently to people who wanted his time. And while these may not have been hard choices to make, I suspect they were hard to uphold.

Choose to be a naked fundraiser

Every once in a while it’s a good idea to stand back, strip down and really look at what we’re doing. Then make some choices (and I don’t mean streaking choices) and promises, and establish how you intend to deliver on those choices and promises.

This article originally appeared at Hilborn: the leading provider of information to Canada’s nonprofit sector