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The Value of a Development Plan

Resource Center - Foundation

(Sept. 22, 2009) Why create a development plan? Well, for one, because you won't secure funding for tomorrow using yesterday's playbook. A good development plan evolves with your organization's strategic plan, turning a shared vision into focused fundraising.

This week, eWire spoke with veteran fundraiser, Carole Rylander, CFRE, a frequent presenter at the AFP International Conference on Fundraising and principal of Rylander Associates in Dallas, Texas. In discussing the value of a development plan, she spoke a lot about the need for vision. Where do you see your organization in two years? Where do you see your relationship with donors?

A development plan is an important bridge between your organization's strategic plan (where you want to go) and your case to donors (who allow you to get there). If the development staff, board and donors are on the same page, then your work as a fundraiser is a lot easier: Board members have a stake in the result (and thus in fundraising), your staff has direction, and donors know why it is that they are giving in the first place.

"Donors never give to the past, they give to the future--to make something happen that hasn't happened," Rylander says. So find out where your program is heading, she advises. What improvements are being made? What new initiatives are in the works? What funding is required? Talking to program staff will inform your development planning and will enable you to excite donors about the progress of your organization. The last thing you want to do is try to raise money for an organization that seems like it is standing still. Then, once you know your destination, you can chart a course to fund it.

On Your Marks...

A good development plan goes far beyond setting a goal in dollars-though that is still important. It starts with your donors, Rylander explains. Who are they? (Prospect research and database creation) Why should they give? (Case for support) How will you reach them? (Direct mail, events, one-on-one, etc.) A good development plan allows you to make better decisions about your entire fundraising process. Instead of starting with "how about a golf tournament?" you start by getting to know your donors and reaching them in the most targeted, strategic manner possible.

A lot also has to do with good development infrastructure. Need to upgrade your technology or train staff? Make it part of your plan!

Above all, a development plan leads to focused action. It harnesses your charity's vision and creates momentum, but it also forces you to draw out the steps to make it happen--real tasks, with real deadlines, carried out by specific people on your team, Rylander explains.

In today's economy, hit-or-miss fundraising is simply not an option. A good development plan will keep your various fundraising vehicles tuned and headed toward the same checkered flag. With a little luck, your board and donors will be there to cheer you on to the finish line.

Carole Rylander will present a session at the 47th AFP International Conference on Fundraising, April 11-14, 2010, in Baltimore, Md., titled Effective Strategic Planning:  How, Who, What & When?

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