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  • Writer's pictureFrances Roen

Charting a Course for Growth in the New Year, Part 2: Prioritizing Your Priorities

Updated: May 29

The term "priority" typically implies singularity, focusing on one thing. However, in reality, it's rare for us to have just one priority for an entire year. So, while setting priorities is crucial for fundraising success, how do you figure out which ones will truly make a difference for your fundraising program—especially when everything feels urgent?

Here’s our guide to assist you in sorting through and deciding how to prioritize your task list for the upcoming year:

Critical priority 

These are the most pressing priorities that, if left undone, will keep you from accomplishing other fundraising goals. These priorities must be accomplished by a specific due date and can be shorter-term. In these scenarios, the objective AND timing are non-negotiable. It is possible to have multiple critical priorities of equal importance at a given time. 

  • Examples: 

  • Calling a funder to ensure fit for a grant deadline that is one month away.

  • Ensuring there is a process that is followed for recording, documenting, and acknowledging gifts in real time. 

  • Writing and mailing year-end appeal.

  • Hiring an event consultant for an upcoming gala.

Important Priority 

An important priority is something that can have a significant positive impact on fundraising or your organization’s fundraising capacity. When it comes to an important priority, the timing OR the objective of these items are flexible. 

  • Examples: 

  • Increasing capacity of the development department through a new hire.

  • Securing matching funds for an appeal.

  • Writing a grant with a rolling deadline.

  • Determining details of a potential cause marketing campaign.

Desirable Priority 

When it comes to a desirable priority, think of it as a bonus that will give a boost to your fundraising. These goals are characterized by flexibility in both time AND objective. 

  • Examples: 

  • Updating a website with recent photos.

  • Creating a new donor welcome packet.

  • Ordering branded thank you cards.

  • Sending out a membership survey.

When it comes to all of the above priorities, take a second pass. You can revise or remove the item if the person responsible could be someone other than you.

  • Examples: 

  • Updating the website with new photos is designated to a volunteer or intern.

  • A board member reviews new donors monthly and asks other board members to make “welcome” calls. Your new critical priority (or someone else’s priority on your team) becomes recording calls made in the database.

Crafting fundraising goals and prioritizing your list for the New Year is all about planning smart and being adaptable. As you dig into your to-do list this December and January, keep in mind that your tasks have different timelines and wiggle room. Think through what's most important, how it will make a difference, and how it ties into your bigger goals. 

When you tackle your priorities smartly, you're setting yourself up for a successful fundraising journey in the year ahead!


Frances Roen is a Georgia girl at heart, and has been graciously adopted by beautiful, snowy Minnesota. She is a forty-something daughter, friend, mom, wife, and entrepreneur, and is always on the look-out for a perfectly fried piece of chicken.

Frances is a Certified Fundraising Executive (CFRE) with nearly 20 years of experience fundraising and has raised over $200M for nonprofits. She has held fundraising positions at The Bakken Museum, Augustana Care Corporation, and YouthLink and consulted with dozens of nonprofits clients across the globe. In these roles she has been responsible for all aspects of fundraising including comprehensive campaigns, major and planned gifts, annual funds, events, communications, corporate partnerships and volunteers.


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