Planning is one of the many overused but little-understood terms tossed around by nonprofit organizations. Several consultants recently organized an audio conference for nonprofit board members. We started by defining planning. Fifteen minutes later, we uncovered more questions than we had answers.
If it took three experts fifteen minutes to define planning —you will undoubtedly find some uncertainty in your organization about what it means to plan.
You plan every day. After all, you make a plan when you run out of paper and draft a sticky note to stick on your key to remind you to order some after your meeting. You plan for events, vacations, and holidays. You outline how exactly you will improve transportation services for seniors. You design your evening.
For starters, here is a definition: planning consists of tasks, energy, and resources applied to create the desired future. Innovative plans include three components:
These three components are universal to all planning. The segments show up in your most minor efforts, including where we should hold our special event and your big questions, such as the most effective way to cure cancer.
Let’s apply these elements to fundraising planning.
To master this step, you will want to decide on some fundamentals. Which income streams are most attractive to you? How would you like to be funded? Which of the seven nonprofit revenue streams best fits your nonprofit’s personality, mindset, and resources?
Your taking on this question after Step One returns you to reality. You will want to know what funds you are raising now. What revenue trends exist? Also, explore if the circumstances have been unusual in the last several years. Many nonprofits receive windfalls or bequests they expect to get once. Also, explore if gifts are arriving over the threshold unexpectedly. You may have major gift opportunities to unearth.
You discovered a gap between where you are and where you want to be. This step of fundraising planning requires creative thinking and fundraising knowledge. To close your gap, you will want to incorporate solid fundraising best practices and mix them with unexpected approaches that only you can formulate. These unusual, if not unique, approaches establish formidable barriers to others’ copying you. The bridge or bridges you build are the heart of the fundraising plan.
When you plan, all three areas require your attention. Which component do you find most comfortable? Most challenging? Most people tell me that building the bridge is tough, but lack of a clear vision and a muddled starting place crumble excellent bridge designs.
Your challenge: Pick one project. Can you clearly describe where you want to go? Good enough to enter an address? Can someone else use it to arrive at the destination?
Karen Eber Davis provides customized advising and coaching around nonprofit strategy and board development. People leaders hire her to bring clarity to sticky situations, break through barriers that seem insurmountable, and align people for better futures. She is the author of 7 Nonprofit Income Streams and Let's Raise Nonprofit Millions Together.
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