Everything starts with Strategic Planning

Everything starts with Strategic Planning

Here’s Our Strategic Plan

Goal #1: Save the World
Goal #2: Raise as Much Money as Possible
Goal #3: Be Good to Our People


Happy New Year!

This means that 2015 is now history. What happened happened. It’s over. No amount of celebrating will ruin it, and no amount of wailing will change the outcome. The Year is dead! Long live the Year! Or something like that.

On the other hand, 2016 yawns in front of us – essentially a blank canvas.

If you’re like some non-profit fundraising leaders, you are busy building 2016 goals from 2015 results. We raised this much from our special event, so let’s do that again. We got this much from our membership renewals, and we’ve been increasing about 5% every year. Add it all up, carry the 4. So we’ll have $376 more to spend in 2016 than we had in 2015.

Don’t get me wrong. Some of that evaluation stuff is healthy: What should we carry over? What should we jettison? Is it worth it?

But let’s not avoid the deeper question:


Is our vision driving our fundraising, or is our fundraising limiting our vision?


If we do the same things again, and get qualitatively the same result, will that be enough? And if not, what will we do differently? How do we determine these answers?

I’ve always said, “Start with how much you need to raise.” Figure out what you’re going to do this year (plan) and how much it’s going to cost (budget), and subtract the money you already have in hand. That’s your fundraising goal. If you’re not going to get there by extending the fundraising activities from 2015 out another year, you will need to come up with new strategies.

Sounds easy, doesn’t it? But here’s where it gets interesting. What else MUST you do this year in order to set up something you’ll need in 2017, or 2018, or 2020? If you will need shade in your back yard ten years from now, you might want to plant that acorn right now. If you’re going to need a six-figure lead gift in 2018, you might want to start actively cultivating 5-10 promising candidates in 2016.

The problem is that our organizational systems all support 12-month thinking. The annual cycle: Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter; Valentine’s Day, Memorial Day, July the 4th, Thanksgiving, and Christmas; prairie burns , field season, harvest, and easement monitoring; newsletters, membership renewals, summer events, and the fall appeal – even your own birthday and anniversary – all in cycles of 12 months. The problem with 12-month thinking is that it limits what we believe we can do. What always was, is. What is, will always be. When do you make time for longer term goals, longer term vision – especially in fundraising? The answer is and must be Strategic Planning.

Everything starts with the Strategic Plan.

What you need to raise this year is determined by what your organization needs to get done this year. That, in turn, is determined by what your organization needs to get done in the next five years – as we all agreed in the Strategic Plan.

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Fundraiser’s Almanac:
Here’s what I’m thinking about in January. What are YOU thinking about?

  • Communications Theme for 2016 – a theme that will run all the way through your communications for the entire year. It will provide substance for newsletter and website articles; Facebook, Twitter, and other social media; solicitation and thank you letters; and even events.
  • Cultivation Plans for my Top 100 List – A Top 100 (or T-100) is simply a list of top donor prospects. These are people who warrant and deserve your special cultivation attention. In January, for each donor, draft and calendar an individual cultivation plan.
  • Evaluating and Soliciting the Board Members – One-on-one, sit down meetings with each board member to evaluate their experience as directors in general, discuss committee placement, review measurable goals from last year, set new goals for the coming year, and solicit a pledge for their 2016 gift.
  • Saying Thank You – How will you thank your donors this year? Can you get the Board Members involved?

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Finally this week, Chris Brogan is back with his annual Three Words post. I’ll share my three words with you next week. Please share yours as well!




Photo credit: Oak Leaf by David Allen

Yes, I can help you with Strategic Planning. I work with two partners at Conservation Consulting Group to help land trusts plan at all levels. To find out more, click here.

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