Fundraising as ministry begins with a plan

My first post here at Generous Matters focused on the critical role of planning in fundraising success.  Fast forward a year, and planning is again a top-of-mind issue for me.

I’m currently involved in four planning initiatives – two as counsel, a third as a board member, and the fourth as the sympathetic spouse of a college administrator. Some folks might find this a miserable way to pass the time, but not me. I’m loving it, in large part because I’m able to tout the importance of planning to fundraising as ministry.

Never mind if members of the strategic planning committee aren’t thinking about fundraising as they set goals for the organization. The development staff can take the plan and run all the way to donors’ hearts.

Thom Jeavons and I make this point in Growing Givers’ Hearts: Treating Fundraising as Ministry, where we list four reasons why a carefully, prayerfully crafted plan is a fundraiser’s best friend.

1)      Good planning provides consistency. Here today, but on to something else tomorrow does little to instill donor confidence.  Before parting with a significant chunk of change, most folks want assurance that there is the institutional will to follow through as promised. A planning document says “we will, here’s how, and when.”

2)      Good planning establishes limits. In the absence of clearly stated organizational priorities, fundraisers struggle against the siren song of gifts that are more about donor preference than mission priorities.  Just because a funding opportunity comes up doesn’t mean the organization is ready, able, or wise to take the money. A solid plan helps fundraisers know when to “yes” and when to walk away.

3)      Good planning encourages accountability. When the development team is working within the parameters of the organizational plan, it’s a snap to illustrate the impact of donors’ gifts.  There’s nothing like putting plans in writing to hold an organization’s “feet” to the fires of accountability. And if best laid plans go awry, honesty is the best policy when reporting back to those who’ve given – even if that means spelling out next steps to get the effort back on course.

4)      Good planning enables evaluation. For the most part, planning is a forward-looking process. However, the exemplary plans build on hard-nosed evaluation of the earlier years’ activities and achievements. Organizational leaders – including the fundraising team – should welcome the facts.  Nothing is gained by spinning the results, but much can be lost, including donor confidence.

So my advice to organizations wishing to pump up their fundraising prowess is this. Make planning a priority. The funds will follow from there — and so will donors’ hearts.

What's your take on this topic?

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