What if Marie Kondo Visited Your Nonprofit Development Office (5 Ideas)

Brooke Battle
Written by :

Brooke Battle

Categories: Fundraising


“Tidying Up with Marie Kondo” debuted on Netflix just in time for our New Year’s resolutions. The series is based on her book by the same name. There are many elements to her plan that make it seem simple and joyful to declutter. (I mean who hasn't refolded their t-shirt drawer.)

Of course the series and the book both discuss paring down  to live a simpler life, but, since I’m a nonprofit geek, I could not help wondering,  what if there were a new show called, “The Magic of Tidying Up Your Development Office”? If Marie Kondo visited your  nonprofit’s development office, here’s how it might go:

Mindfulness: At the beginning of each new home, Marie thanks the home for providing shelter and happiness to its occupants. It’s a short exercise that creates a deeper connection to what a home provides and a focus on the larger mission. The same step would apply to nonprofits. She might walk through your office looking at pictures of program recipients, piles of information on donors or recent board materials and then she would kneel on the floor with eyes closed to THANK the office, the computers and the organization for providing (insert your mission) to the community.

Declutter your fundraising plan: Much like her process to clean out a closet, imagine emptying your “closet” of fundraising initiatives and piling them up in the center of the room. You might see the following: Major Gift plan, Planned Giving information, Annual Letter Appeal, Fundraising Event(s), Grant Proposals, Earned Income, and Online fundraising campaigns. First, let’s put these in the order of the current time commitment devoted to each, next assign metrics to the effectiveness of each (financial impact received, financial impact projected, new donors attracted, cause awareness/reach). Then, with that information create a new pile with the initiatives that your office can effectively tackle (i.e. don’t let the planned giving initiative simply be clutter) and (a) determine importance given limited time and, if it is important enough to keep this year, (b) determine how to resource it.

Donor Database: Leading an effective fundraising strategy is based on great data and EVERYONE dreads this task. To me, it’s the kitchen cleanout of the home organization and I can think of one thousand things I’d rather do. But, like the donor database the kitchen is the heartbeat of our home and when it’s in shape other things run smoothly. Bottom line: It’s worth it!

-   First and most basic, search your database for duplicates and combine or delete records. (*Note: you probably pay per record and mail to each record so this process may have immediate savings.)

-  Review your tagging / appeals code system. Look for tags/codes that are not utilized and isolate a standard set of codes to be used throughout the system. **Put these codes into file describing your database process so that anyone connected to your system uses the correct codes. This article from Gryphon Fundraising describes this issue further and offers several database tips.

-  Create a list of current donors and ensure that the information for those donors is correct and that they are tagged properly.

-  Pull the list of donors who have lapsed by two years only. Use or create a tag for donors that lapse after 24 months and tailor email communication to support this type of donor directly.

-  Lapsed donors -- after review, tag these donors as inactive so that you do not continue to pay for mail. Here are 4 Tips from Bloomerang about how to handle lapsed donor files.

Organize your volunteers. Fundraising is driven by development staff directing others. Put the names of all of your volunteers connected to fundraising on a conference room table. Organize those names according to their current activity. Now, what if you could rearrange those volunteers in a manner that is more effective. Try it. In this step, consider if you have volunteers that could be more effective in other areas, volunteers who are holding back progress and then the gaps in your volunteer resources. Volunteers cannot be moved like pawns on a chess board, but identifying a better plan can help you guide volunteers toward better spots for your plan and begin to ‘tidy-up’.


Note: We wrote about event volunteers  previously -- here are some of our best tips for managing volunteers:  The Smart Pill for your Volunteer Headache

Meetings. There are an unlimited number of meetings and events that nonprofit Time Managementprofessionals can attend. The fastest way to ‘tidy-up’ your schedule is to evaluate which meetings you attend. All meetings on your calendar should meet the following criteria: (1) Will this meeting connect you directly with a current or prospective major donor? (2) Will this meeting generate a significant number of new contacts for your fundraising? If the time commitment does not meet these first two criterion, your participation should be reconsidered.


Knowing our development directors, you are an extremely busy group and it would be impossible to tackle with without a “Marie Kondo” taskmaster helping you clear the time to tackle it.    The calls, meetings and emails do not stop and certainly the fundraising never slows down. You’re the core of community change. Perhaps pick just one -- item #5. Start by evaluating the meetings and events you attend based on whether they help you meet your goals.  In doing so, hopefully you can free up time for another item on the list.


Good luck, fundraising warriors!  Be Swell!