Category Archives: Work Smart

Posts about saving time, managing projects, and being more efficient.

That Fundraising Plan

How many of you would set out on a trip to get to a very important appointment somewhere you’ve never travelled before without first mapping out how you are going to get there?  And yet, we do this all the time with fundraising.  And to quote my hero, Yogi Berra, “If you don’t know where you are going, you might wind up someplace else.”

Where we want to wind up is in a place where you all have strong, comprehensive and integrated fundraising programs.  But you absolutely will not get there if you don’t spend the time planning.

In my mind, planning has three components:

  1. Identify where you want to go or what you want to accomplish
  2. Figure out the steps you must take to get there
  3. Be very clear as to who owns what.

Simple enough and yet most nonprofits don’t seem to get there.

I’m often told that “I don’t have time to plan,” or—even more frequently—“I don’t need to write it down; it’s all in my head.”  To which I reply, “Hogwash.”

Taking the time to develop your fundraising plan is time well spent. Writing it down is critical.  “In your head” is about as realistic as “in your dreams,” and about as effective.

Your plan doesn’t have to be elaborate.  In fact, simple is probably better.  Start with a table or spreadsheet.  The first column is where you will indicate what type of fundraising you are doing:  Annual Giving, Special Events, Major Gifts, Foundation Grants, etc.  In the second column, you will focus on the technique.  So your annual fund drive may be comprised of direct mail; open houses; house parties; face-to-face solicitations.  Your major gifts may also use all but direct mail as techniques to reach out to larger donors.

In each month, indicate what steps you will be taking and who is the owner.  For example, for a direct mail appeal that is going out in May, January may be the month the letter and reply device get written.  Perhaps the development director is the person doing that, or maybe you’ve hired a writer.

If this seems too complex, no problem.  Simplify.  Only have one column for what you arer are doing.

Or mark off the months and in each, indicate what you are doing.

Whatever works—and whatever you will work is good.  To be blunt, working a mediocre plan will get you much further than random moments of brilliance followed by nothing very much.

So stop complaining that you don’t have time.  Quit pretending it’s all in your head.  Get to work on building a plan.  And then work that plan.



How To Hire

Of all the difficult things nonprofits have to do, perhaps the most difficult is hiring the right development staff.  Part of the problem is that too often, non-development people form the bulk of the search committee, and what they see is not always what they get.  Nor is it what they need. When we think… Read more

The Gratitude Express

One of the things I love about working for me is that when I get an idea there is not a while lot of bureaucracy to deal.  Very different from my days in higher education. Public higher ed.  Nowadays,  I do a lot of training and coaching of nonprofit leaders, mainly in areas of fund… Read more

In Between Times

I’m in between two vacations.  A week-long California car trip and two weeks in Rome.  Excessive, I know, except we really haven’t had a vacation in a very long time.  And while Rome is vacation for me, it is not for my husband.  But I digress.  It was mind-set, or perhaps lack of, that I… Read more