Planning Time to Create A Plan

I am definitely a planner.  I’m the friend that schedules the get-together, makes the restaurant reservation, figures out where to park, reviews the menu prior, and then looks forward to the outing – and, of course, sends text reminders prior.  My family gives me a hard time when I book my flight to visit six months ahead of time.  My hometown has a small airport and there are plenty of flights.  My brothers say, “Six months? That’s cutting it close. We’ll try and move our schedules around for your visit.”  

Nonprofits know it’s important to plan, but does it sometimes feel like you are planning to plan to create plans?  According to Wikipedia, a plan is typically any diagram or list of steps with details of timing and resources, used to achieve an objective to do something.  Well-run nonprofits have a strategic plan in place as well as a communications plan, a succession plan, a human resource plan, and a development plan.  A Development Plan may seem daunting, but it is worth the time and effort to create one for any organization.

We often hear comments like:

“Can’t we just go out and raise money, solicit everyone and hope for the best?”

“We have a great story to tell and our board members are passionate – let’s go raise the money we need for this year.”

“We have a strategic plan that talks about fundraising, isn’t that enough?”

Board members and staff can just go out and solicit everyone and hope for the best but, if you don’t have a goal and haven’t talked about the best person to solicit each prospect and what their capacity is, budget needs will not be met and money will be left on the table.  All strategic plans should have a fundraising component but that does not take the place of a separate Development Plan.

I used to create five-year fundraising plans, but no more.  Three years is the maximum length a Development Plan should be as the funding landscape is ever-changing.  Organizations need to incorporate new ways of fundraising through revenue-generating sites and social media giving, but the basic fundraising tools and measurements do not change.  Individual giving, corporate giving, foundation giving, public giving, and faith-based giving provide a diversified revenue pool.  Many nonprofits also have program fees or earned revenue such as a thrift shop component which should also be included in a Development Plan.

Following are nine helpful steps to create your Development Plan:

  1. Work with your Development Committee to create a three-year plan.  If you don’t have a Development Committee, recruit one. Creating a plan will be their first order of business.  A Development Committee can be made up of board and non-board members and is a great way to measure potential board members’ abilities.
  2. Survey current donors and stakeholders to find out how your organization rates in communicating with donors, funding impact, and donor involvement.
  3. Look at giving trends.  Have donations increased each year? Decreased? How many multi-year gifts do you have? Do you have sustainer donors who give monthly?
  4. Look at your budget and identify how much money is coming from each resource and what it needs to be in three years’ time.
  5. Discuss how you can diversify funding over the next three years and create tactics to meet annual goals.
  6. What does your strategic plan call for in the way of financial needs? Create timelines in your Development Plan to meet those needs.
  7. Take a look at in-kind donations.  Is there room to expand in this arena?
  8. Create revenue goals in each revenue category for every year of the plan.
  9. Create a stewardship calendar within your Development Plan.

Like other plans, a Development Plan needs to be implemented and tracked in order to be successful.  The Development Committee is responsible for implementing the Development Plan with the help of staff.  A marketing and communications plan should dovetail with your Development Plan.

I’m sure you’ve heard the saying “Failing to plan is planning to fail.”  Once a plan is in place, it’s easy to revise for future planning efforts.

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