Close your eyes. You’re 14 years old and you just received your school report card. You hold it in your hands as your eyes scan the page top to bottom. A… A… B… A… F… Next to the “F” your teacher has written, “Need to apply yourself in class. Not living up to potential.”

Do your development plans sometimes feel this way? Your reporting and planning time always sneaks away? Your development plans are not living up to, what should be, a meaningful potential?

Forecasting development plans and creating regular “report cards” to track your progress can help your organization in the long-term achieve an A+.

National and Individual Fundraising Trends
Looking at national fundraising trends can help you craft not only an achievable fundraising goal, but a specific, measurable fundraising goal for your organization. From this, you can look at your own fundraising trends.

  • What is the breakout of giving from the last three years?
  • What were the “outliers” and how can we use this information in the future?
  • What worked and what didn’t work last year?

Evaluate your events, direct mail campaigns, other communications, and renewal rates throughout in answering the three questions above.

Three Year Outlook Strategies for Growth
Create three-year strategies for growth in your organization by thinking about what lies ahead and being prepared.

  • What are the needs of your organization over the next three years? Will you have new programming? A capital campaign? Endowment campaign? Increased operating needs?
  • What are the best strategies for growth of your organization? Are you renewing, recruiting, and cultivating all types of donors? Do you have a strategy for planned giving?
  • What resources does your team need to meet these needs? Will you need additional staff? Additional materials?

This three-year plan should include specific dates for direct mail appeals, board solicitation strategies, major donor solicitation plans, event time frames, goals, and strategies, and grant time frames and goals.

By creating this three-year outlook plan, you will be able to better anticipate the needs within your organization. This is not to say that everything will go exactly as you have planned, however, having a plan with specific strategies can give you a base – a cohesive and consistent vision – despite the unexpected in your organization.

Budgeting Process
To supplement your three-year plan strategies, create a three-year budget. This budget should include the revenue goals in consistent sections. Many organizations track giving from Individuals, Businesses, Foundations, and Events while others track by “appeal” type and track giving by Direct Mail, Events, Grants, Major Gifts, etc. As long as it’s consistent and easily pulled in your database, it doesn’t matter which specifics you track! Just remember to keep the categories broad so it doesn’t get too detailed for the board and leadership to digest.

Once you have listed all goals, use this as a tool to either meet or increase your goals in the future. Craft specific, measurable, realistic, and time-bound strategies that will help you meet these goals. Once your end date has come, evaluate!

Gather the data from your team and set a reporting process and plan. Use your data to support your plan and demonstrate that in the report.

Working with Your Board of Directors
Reporting to your internal team is important, but communicating the development plan with your board members is equally as important.

  • Demonstrate how your plan will address specific goals for your organization and how strategies will be implemented and post-evaluated. These details will help them understand and approve the plan.
  • Get them on board (pun intended) with the strategies and let them know of their responsibilities within the plan.
  • Keep them in the loop! Reporting back to your board of directors must happen for them to be effective in their role in the planning as well. Did they include personalized notes to donors in the last direct mail campaign? Was that campaign a success? Tell them! Let them know that they made a positive impact and they will be apt to do similar activities in the future.

Close your eyes. You’re 14 years old and you just received your next school report card. You hold it in your hands as your eyes scan the page top to bottom. A… A… B… A… A…
At the bottom your teacher has written, “Proud of you and the tools you’ve used to make progress!” You smile, find a magnet, and stick the report card on the front of your refrigerator.
It takes time to get an A, but you know that you have laid out and begun to track the steps needed to reach your goals.