What’s Next?

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David Gee – Associate Vice President, HUB Philanthropic Solutions

I had the privilege of participating in a client’s development committee meeting last week when the Chair asked me a question about best practices for committee meetings. My immediate response was, “Know what comes next– and who is responsible.” A few days later, I was working with another client on their major gifts prospect pipeline and we were discussing key elements. In the midst of that exchange I again found myself saying, “Know what comes next– and who is responsible.”

While having a Definitive Next Step (DNS) is crucial to the success of all kinds of projects in every sector and yes, even in our personal matters, it is absolutely mission critical for resource development.

  • If you are cultivating a new relationship or stewarding one with an existing donor, there should always be a plan for the next step/engagement/touch and clarity about who owns it.
  • When great ideas are generated at a committee or team meeting, someone has to have responsibility for what the next steps are and everyone involved needs to be clear about what that means.
  • During a solicitation with a donor, it is critical to define what comes next and, ideally, you – not the donor – are the one that owns it.
    • If the donor says they need time to consider your request and you have gained an understanding as to how much time they think they might need (i.e., two weeks), simply ask if it is okay for you check in with them at that time. This avoids the awkward and sometimes ongoing problem of never knowing if it’s the right time to call, and thus, not being in control of securing the gift.
  • With special events and strategic planning (projects that involve a lot of moving parts) successful execution depends on knowing exactly what comes next and who is tasked with making it happen, throughout the process.
    • It is particularly helpful with these multi-layered projects when the owner of one step understands that completing their task directly impacts another team member’s ability to execute their assigned step. The accountability factor can be an additional motivator.

The key word here is “definitive.” Next steps are only going to be useful if they are clearly actionable and if someone takes full responsibility for them.

Obviously this isn’t rocket science. Nevertheless, being intentional about identifying the appropriate DNS and diligent in ensuring ownership for every step is vital to advancing our fundraising and resource development goals successfully. When everyone has clarity about “What’s Next” we can operate more efficiently and, ultimately, be more effective in achieving our mission.

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David Gee is a seasoned development professional with particular expertise in capital campaigns, major gifts and donor stewardship. David joined the HUB Philanthropic Solutions team after serving as The Chicago Bar Foundation’s Director of Development. Prior to that, he spent 18 years working as a professional actor in Chicago. Among his volunteer activities, David serves on the Donors Forum’s Resource Development Committee, the Development Committee for All Chicago and as the Local School Council Chair at Beaubien Elementary School.

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