Getting Started On A Development Plan by Carl Sylvestre

A simple act of courage is all that is needed to start your fundraising plan. Once an early version of a budget is created, most members of the development team know what they are responsible for raising in the next fiscal year.

With the budget, the leadership of the organization has announced its strategic plan for the year and it is now up to the organization’s managers to figure out how to carry each action within a defined timeline. The fundraising plan outlines those action steps.

With the preliminary budget, individuals with fundraising functions need to write the best-case scenario on how each of these dollars is going to be raised. It is a necessary and rigorous exercise and a level of professional honesty has to be at play. For example, if you are expected to receive a renewal grant of $10,000 from a foundation, you need to access its probability? What elements of your last proposal gave the organization its strengths and is now a liability? What are the key dates? Most often organizations have a spreadsheet with key dates for submission, but very rarely are the risks and action plans analyzed and put on paper for all to see and discuss. These have to be stated in a short paragraph.

Building a fundraising plan can be a difficult exercise as it often raises tough questions that in normal circumstances are often left to work themselves out. However, once you have this working plan the team is empowered to confront unforeseen circumstances. This written analysis needs to be shared with the team and debated with others whose first reaction is likely to be that this is not my job and I do not have the time for your concern. For example, as the plan takes shape, the development office needs to make sure that it is tied to the organization’s cash-flow projections and thus a lengthy coordination process with the finance department. What is often forgotten is that the success of the development team is the success of the entire organization; just as the success of the delivery of a great performance is something we all share in.

Participants should be explicit about how much confidence they have on key assumptions or conclusions. I encourage everyone in this process to dream big but it has to be matched equally with a reality check and somewhere in between you will find a strategy with a greater probability of success.

The elements to have a successful fundraising plan is often at your disposal, but not many people take the time to pull it together and make it part of a living organism. The benefit of this approach is to reduce anxieties, help in reshaping priorities in an efficient manner, and build team spirit. That is not a bad place to start.