You may not know this, but I don’t have a very good sense of direction. Suffice it to say, when I was a young driver, I had a huge road atlas and multiple state maps in my car at all times. Then, the internet was born and some lovely people created a site called MapQuest. I could go to this website, put in the start and end locations, then hit print to get a many-page document that showed the route and the step-by-step directions from Point A to Point B. The angels sang from heaven and I got lost less frequently.
Now, in a world of Google Maps, Waze, and other apps, we can quickly get directions to any site on the globe within a few seconds. Plus, if we miss a turn, or decide to veer off our path, the app will automatically recalibrate for us. These tools even tell us if there is a challenge ahead: construction, an accident, or a speed trap. Amazing.
So, why do I bring this up? Because I want you to look at your Fund Development Plan
and consider: is it more like MapQuest or like Google Maps? Do you have flexibility embedded into your plan? Do you acknowledge various scenarios and give yourself the freedom to stop by an interesting exit to explore? Or, are you stuck with your MapQuest printouts and scared to deviate off the path even when the situation calls for change?
Some of you are thinking: We're not even in MapQuest mode! We don’t have a Fund Development Plan of any kind.
Whether you are the one on point for a plan, or you work with a board or ED lacking one, let me take a moment to speak with you directly. Not having a Fund Development Plan is a mistake. When we don’t make an intentional plan to try a different route (i.e., new fundraising tactics), we fall back to our old habits and the tired rut that we’ve been in for years. Then, as an organization, we shouldn’t be surprised when we end up at the same spot at the end of the fiscal year: exhausted by unsuccessful fundraising activities, scrambling to end the year in the black, seeking new board members because others are resigning, and searching for a new development staff member to replace the one that has quit.
The value of a Fund Development Plan is not only the plan itself, but also the intentional process of analyzing your strategies, mapping out new activities, piloting new approaches, and looking for ways to be more efficient. A good plan builds in some contingencies (i.e., off-ramps, alternate routes, etc.) because we know that there are many factors beyond our control and sometimes the plan needs to shift. A great plan also includes regular check-ins and accountability tools that ensure everyone is playing their role and that the team notices early when something starts going awry.
If you don’t have a fund development plan, please make it a priority this year. Your constituents need you to plan for your organization’s sustainability. In order to keep providing programs, your organization needs to deploy fundraising tactics based on an analysis of your previous efforts and best practices.
If you have a plan, but it’s more like MapQuest than Google Maps, please consider ways to make it more of a living document. Plan quarterly or monthly meetings as a check-in. Do some mid-year analysis of results-to-date to determine if you’re on track.
What's working well in your fund development planning? Where are you stuck?
Interested in reading more? Check out this fabulous free tool.
Create a solid plan for your organization’s future. Your constituents will thank you!