The Development Plan: Getting Started
(Sept. 22, 2009) When you actually get to work devising (or revising) your development plan, the process has many steps and requires you to be thorough--and that's a good thing. Here we'll discuss the first steps of the planning process with advice from fundraising veteran Linda Lysakowski's book, Nonprofit Essentials: The Development Plan.
The first question you may have is, When is a good time to start a development plan? In short, the answer is right now. You really can't fundraise effectively until you know what you're working toward and how to get there. But there are some good windows of opportunity that serve as natural starting points for a development plan.
Good Times to Start a Plan...
New recruits. First, the need for a plan becomes clear when there are several new staff on the team. Take this opportunity to train them not just about the various fundraising techniques, but to devise your overall direction. Similarly, if your organization is new to development in general, your best bet is to start with a development plan, even if it is basic to start.
Capital Campaign. A capital campaign also marks an ideal time to brush up your development plan--in order to make the campaign successful, but also to assure that your special campaign does not shortchange your annual fund. Donors need to be made aware that ongoing support is critical as you make your way through a capital campaign, Lysakowski explains.
Strategic Plan. Since the development plan is an important element of the organization's overall strategic plan, strategic planning opens a window for revising the development plan, or creating one from scratch. It is important to incorporate the development plan with the strategic plan so that the expectations for funding the plan's growth in staff or programs is in line with what the development staff is able to produce.
Board Encouragement. Finally, board involvement can jumpstart a development plan. A new board member may have ideas for the plan based on what they saw at a previous organization, or board leadership may encourage the planning process. The good news here is that board encouragement often translates to buy-in from its members for fundraising.
Assessment of Existing Program
To prepare for the development plan the first thing you need to do is learn the lessons of your past. To assess your past fundraising program, gather reports of past years' performance and look for areas of growth (or decline) in numbers of donors, number of dollars raised through each fundraising method, average gift amount, percentage of board and staff that has made a gift--and even the number of donor contacts made during the course of a year. Evaluate special events and the number of successful grant proposals, too.
From there, as you begin to sharpen your development plan, you should include goals and objectives for each component, as well as strategies and action steps to achieve objectives. You want to put on paper answers to the following questions about each action item: When is it going to be done? Who is going to do it? and How much is it going to cost?
Remember, the development plan is not a static document meant to collect dust on the shelf. Put the effort into assessing your existing program, set aside the time necessary to make the plan, and be willing to adapt as time goes by. Above all, the plan should identify clear actions to be taken.
For More Information
To learn more about the creation of a development plan, including an explanation of the process and sample plans, visit the Hot Topics page at the AFP Fundraising Resource Center (login required) or pick up a copy of Linda Lysakowski's book, Nonprofit Essentials: The Development Plan, part of the AFP Fund Development Series.