5 things most fundraising plans are missing

A fundraising plan is a critical document for any organization. After all, it states how the organization will generate enough revenue to cover its costs, and if it can’t cover its costs, it can’t make progress towards its mission.

While an organization can do without a formal plan written on paper, the benefits of having a detailed plan are manifold – being strategic can focus one’s efforts, ease decision-making, create efficiencies, and improve effectiveness.

I’ve seen many fundraising plans, ranging from a few ideas jotted down on the back of a napkin to lengthy, sophisticated plans. Yet I repeatedly find some components missing that are often the most useful aspects of a successful fundraising plan:

  • Situation analysis. Development teams often design a plan looking forward, setting goals based on what they achieved the previous year, but they don’t go far enough to look at what else worked and didn’t in their prior efforts, nor how circumstances have changed. The best plans incorporate lessons learned from previous years, consider the current conditions, and avoid repeating mistakes made in the past.
  • Diversified revenue sources. Most plans think about the two common funding sources – individual donors and institutional funders – and that’s it. But if you can diversify your portfolio, you’ll have greater financial stability and resilience in the long run. Think about different way for your organization to generate revenues and earn income, and be sure to consider sources of both restricted and unrestricted funding.
  • Resource assessment. Fundraising plans are organizational, and so they often focus on what the organization needs to earn. They don’t always focus on what the organization will need to be successful at fundraising. What resources do you currently have to execute the plan? What resources will you need at a minimum and what resources would you want to have to expand your efforts? Taking stock will help ensure that your plan is practical and that your development team is set up to succeed.
  • Detailed work plan. More sophisticated organizations know that having a list of how much you want to raise from different sources is just the start. If you want to actually achieve your fundraising goals, you need to know how you will execute. This includes what your timeline and benchmarks are, what your priorities are, what your activities will be, and who will be responsible for what tasks. Having a detailed work plan makes the execution far more efficient and effective, especially if you’re working on a team.
  • Contingency plans. No fundraising plan is foolproof. There is always risk involved, with some revenue sources more likely than others. So what happens if you fail? What’s the backup plan? While most fundraisers can tell you about the probability of receiving funds from different sources, many cannot say what will happen if they don’t meet their goals. If you want to increase your chances of success, do a bit of scenario planning to account for different possible outcomes. It will improve your organization’s financial sustainability in the long term.

If the planning is done right, it should be easier to meet your goals. And if it’s easier to meet your goals, you’re more likely to raise enough funds for your organization. Now who doesn’t want that?

For more on how to develop a strong fundraising plan, check out this upcoming workshopSmart Planning for Financial Sustainability – at the Foundation Center in San Francisco on Tuesday, June 2nd. Register today!



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