Strategic planning and fundraising strategy go hand in hand. Think of it as giving your organization’s revenue the same boost as a great morning routine.
Who can resist clicking on a headline about how to create the perfect morning routine? We here at Funding for Good certainly can’t. When we checked out the latest advice, we weren’t at all surprised to see another plug for morning meditation. But with our nonprofit consultant hats on, it also reminded us of another great match: a strategic plan and fundraising strategy.
According to CNBC:
There are science-backed benefits of having a morning routine: past research has shown that a consistent morning routine can reduce stress, boost your energy levels and improve your productivity at work.
Do the benefits of a morning routine remind you of anything? Yep, strategic planning.
Research shows that a strategic plan increases your organization’s chance of success. And as we’ve explored elsewhere, strategic planning provides benefits like helping you better prioritize your time and financial resources.
But fundraising staff can sometimes experience unexpected tension in the strategic planning process. Your development team is focused on raising money to cover payroll and hard costs (like office rent) for the next 12-18 months. Whereas your strategic planning facilitator is guiding you to think on a 3-5-year time horizon.
To go back to the idea of creating an ideal morning routine, it’s like asking someone to meditate on their intention for the morning, the day, and the next five years all at once. Probably not the most peaceful or effective strategy.
Luckily, there’s a simple answer: understanding how strategic plans and fundraising plans work together. And how having both can set your organization up for immediate and long-term success.
Where Does Fundraising Fit in Your Strategic Plan?
As part of your strategic planning process, you’ll be:
Evaluating Current Programs: The flipside of fundraising is budgeting. One area where strategic planning stands out is by evaluating how an organization’s programs and projects tie into its vision and mission. This can drive changes in program strategies, whether scaling back, scaling up, or shifting an approach. It’s a great practice that helps development staff understand which programs and grants are not fundraising priorities.
Mapping Future Programs: During the strategic planning process, you’ll identify areas for growth. You’ll evaluate opportunities and challenges—and how current or new programs can help meet them. That means fundraising staff will get a much-coveted insight into the future of your organization’s programmatic work. Knowing what you need to raise money for—and why it’s a priority—is the first step to a strong fundraising strategy.
Putting a Budget Number to Growth: One of the final pieces of a strategic plan is budgeting out the cost of implementation. Of course, an organizational budget looking 3-5 years out won’t be perfect. But it will give your development team much more insight into long-range fundraising needs. Which means your development team can prepare—rather than scramble—to meet growth needs.
Where Does a Strategic Plan Fit in Your Fundraising Strategy?
Creating a strategic plan is also an incredible gift for your development department. A strategic plan helps fundraisers:
- Inspire Donors: Your strategic plan lays out your organization’s vision, mission, goals, objectives and measurements of success. All of which is a recipe for inspiring your donors with the incredible impact you’ll be working to achieve—and the forward-thinking planning you’ve done to prepare.
- Strengthen Ongoing Donor Engagement: Funding for Good recommends that organizations review and assess progress toward their strategic plan objectives at least twice a year, if not quarterly. While your board and staff leadership are evaluating progress, development staff can turn those same reports into impact reports for your donors.
- Build Long-Range Donor Pipelines: With a strategic plan, development staff can better target the types of donors that will be invested the long-range vision for your organization. Which means less time spent chasing non-core project grants, and more time spent cultivating donors who are most likely to renew their gifts year after year.
Including Development Staff in Strategic Planning
If there’s one takeaway here, it’s that a strategic plan is one of the most powerful tools in a fundraiser’s toolbox.
To make your plan that much better, be sure to include development staff in your strategic planning process. That way you can connect organizational development, program and project planning, and fundraising all in one place. The end result will be a strategic plan that serves as the powerful groundwork for your fundraising planning.