Fundraising Basics – Planning

Over the next several weeks we will be doing a series on Fundraising Basics. These blogs will be intended to help you in the overall planning and implementation of a successful development program.

As I’ve said before, the most effective form of nonprofit fundraising comes from a planning process. That’s why we believe a successful fundraising program begins with an effective planning process. Why plan? As strategic planning consultants we list at least 6 benefits that planning makes possible:

  1. Planning clarifies your mission, vision, core values, goals, strategies and action plans. Defining and understanding these things is crucial for moving any organization forward. Essentially the planning process gives you a sense of where you’re headed and how you will get there.
  2. Planning helps you identify your critical planning issues. When we help organizations plan, we are able to identify the critical issues through three activities. First, we conduct an internal review of several reports that we request. Second, we interview several members of the leadership team and staff. Finally, we conduct an online stakeholder survey. That allows us to zero in on the 4 to 5 critical planning issues around which we will build the planning process.
  3. Planning helps establish your priorities. Every day people inside organizations finish planning processes and then put the plan on the shelf and go back to business as usual. The planning process is actually intended to help you establish some new priorities with new strategies that are achieved through action plans. That doesn’t mean that I recommend getting rid of what’s working. Yet, at the same time leaders need to examine what they’re doing and sometimes change to stay on the cutting edge. As the late Coach Wooden used to say, “Failing to plan is planning to fail.”

I worked with a large church one time that also had a very large budget. The church leadership noted that they had a stewardship responsibility for the resources that were coming in to them, and they believed they needed to do more formal planning.

We started our work, but staff members soon challenged me. In fact, several of them visited me wanting to know why they needed to plan. They argued that their membership was growing, and their offerings and budget were also growing. Therefore, in their opinion there was no need to plan. Besides, the church leadership was attempting to micromanage their daily operations.

I explained that the reason members of the leadership team were micromanaging them was in part, because they didn’t have a plan. Likewise, their budgets would likely go a lot further if they spent more time thinking about the best ways to use those funds.

  1. Planning focuses your direction, decision-making and resources. Inevitably “good ideas” tend to come to the forefront after planning has concluded. However, if something has not been included in the plan, then unless it’s something urgent you don’t have to allocate resources to it.
  2. Planning enhances your communication and spirit of teamwork. When you bring the team together during a planning process, it emphasizes that we are all in this together. As people learn more about what other parts of the organization are doing it also can eliminate duplication of efforts.
  3. Planning helps you increase both your efficiency (doing things right) and your effectiveness (doing right things). Ultimately, every organization I’ve ever been associated with has endeavored to be effective and planning helps pave the way to get there.

Next week we’ll take a look at what the fundraising planning should include.