Maybe your organization has just done a strategic plan and you’re wondering how to translate that plan to your fundraising? Or, perhaps your organization feels it’s not the right time for strategic planning, and you are looking for structure to guide your fundraising work in the meantime? Either way, I’ve got some tips to help fundraisers look ahead to the future with productivity and purpose.

Strategic Planning Continuum

How deep you go into this process and how many of these strategies you use will be determined by the amount of time you have to invest in this process. I’ve devised a continuum to help you assess where you should dedicate your limited strategic planning energies.

Don’t let this chart overwhelm you. If you have more budgetary resources than staff time, you could outsource some of the more complex and time-consuming aspects of the planning process, while keeping only a few for your team to execute.

strategic planning continuum

How far into the future should your plan look? No less than one year but no more than five years. I recommend three because technology and trends change so quickly that a five-year plan is often far too long.

Still, one year is usually not enough to contextualize your efforts and how those fit into the long-term health of the organization and your fundraising program. But, if you can only do one year, that’s fine. Again, some sort of plan will grow your fundraising efforts far more than no plan at all.

In this blog post, I will focus on the elements that you need to complete a DIY Informed Tactical Plan. This process can be done by one person (in any position they have in fundraising) in about a week. This week of effort will guide your labors for the next entire year. It is well worth the investment.

Modeling

Do you have input into your annual goals? Even if your goals are assigned to you, it’s important you spend some time modeling how you might reach those goals.

Each year, set up some spreadsheets and run some projections about what actions you are going to take to achieve your fundraising goals. If you do the same thing, you will almost certainly get the same results. This modeling process will provide you with projections of what you will likely be able to raise.

Ask yourself “what if” questions. What if I was able to hire someone to help me schedule visits each week? What if I was able to send out two more mailings? What if we could get a few folks together to do a phonathon? Including cost metrics in this “what if” process is crucial.

Cost to raise a dollar is the most important one. If you can show that you can send two more mailings (at $2,000 each) and raise $10,000 more next year, that’s a no brainer. (Cost to raise a dollar would be 40 cents.)

Best Practices

There’s an old joke in fundraising that R&D doesn’t stand for research and development, it stands for Rip off and Duplicate. In all seriousness, you need sources of inspiration and examples.

Every fundraiser needs a “sample file” of cool mailings and emails and graphics you’ve seen other organizations use. If you don’t have a sample file, contact a mailing house that works with nonprofit clients and they will be happy to send you lots of samples.

If you see a mailing or other idea you really like, it pays to get in touch with the organization that did that project and see if they can tell you a bit about how much that project raised and whether they felt it did well for them.

You want best practices based on what really raises money. Judge ideas based on results, not only how new, bright, and shiny the concept or technology might seem.

Resources/Pricing

Now that you’ve done all your modeling and best practice research, you can begin to diagnose what you need to facilitate the programs you want to do.

You will need to incorporate some estimate of cost into your plan for budgetary projections. This process might involve just an estimate of whether you can fit the project into the calendar and staff schedules.

However, it may be more complex, involving contacting vendors and researching pricing. Sometimes, it will involve calculating how much postage you need to send all the mail you plan to send next year.

Often, the level of detail you need for this step will depend on who holds the budgetary keys at your organization and how much information they will want before increased resources will be allocated to you.

Calendar/Budget

Once you know what you want to do, how much those projects will help you raise, and how much all of it will cost, you need to package it all up with a bow. Even if it’s just a calendar of projects with a budget proposal, make it look amazing. Use charts and graphs and visual aids whenever to help the data come alive.

Don’t forget to include those all-important areas of stewardship, fulfillment of pledges and continuing education for staff.

Lobbying

Now, you’ve got your informed tactical plan for the upcoming year. You now need to present it to get approval and resources.

First, assess the timing. When are budgetary increases usually asked for in the year? Make sure you are as close to that as possible and if the window has passed, scale back your plan and make a note to present this at the right time next year.

Once you’ve decided on your timing, set the meeting with the right people in the room. Usually, this includes the Executive Director, President, or CEO of the organization and someone in the finance/accounting/budget department. During your presentation, lean heavily on your projection modeling, and when you ask for resources, emphasize the return on investment you feel you can deliver (cost to raise a dollar).

If you don’t get an immediate answer, be sure to follow up. Ask in the meeting if there’s any other information they’d like you to secure and when you can expect an answer. Part of being an amazing fundraiser is tenacious follow-up, so don’t be afraid to do that here.

You Can Do This

Strategic planning isn’t just for organizations that can afford to hire well-heeled consultants. And having a strategic plan isn’t just for the whole organization. Fundraisers can strategically look at their work and compose informed plans that guide their own work in support of the organization’s mission and goals.

Humanitru Can Help

Whether you’re an organization with the resources available to create a more advanced, Deeply Evaluative strategic plan, or you’re a smaller organization that feels more comfortable developing a DIY Informed Tactical plan, the engagement data and reporting tools available within the Humanitru platform can provide you with the insight into your supporters and their actions that you need to create an effective plan.

Sign up for a demo today, and we would love to show you how.

With over 20 years of fundraising experience, Jessica has worked for the Starr King School for the Ministry, The University of Southern Mississippi Foundation, The University of South Carolina, RuffaloCODY, and the Libertarian National Committee. As a consultant, Jessica provides her fundraising services to nonprofits and higher education organizations. You can find her at Real Deal Fundraising.
Jessica Cloud, CFRE, MA

Fundraising Success Coach

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