Always Have a Development Backup Plan
When I embarked on my own in fundraising consulting I had only one client that I served as a sole practitioner.
I soon realized that I was missing the synergy of a team. Collaboration is important. We all have different skills. Some days we are on and some days even the best of us seem to struggle a bit.
So, as we developed our team, we also looked for redundancy. We didn’t want just one person with a unique set of skills. We wanted backup.
The same is true in your development team and strategy. You need a development backup plan.
Whether you are a small or large shop, what are your backup plans in key roles? One of the easiest to identify is technology. I’ve seen shops large and small nearly shut down by having only one person who is competent at the donor-relationship software end. He or she gets sick or goes on vacation. And then you need critical information and you have to wait.
We utilize a great team of writer and designers; however, we have several of each. This ensures that we can meet the needs of our clients.
The same is true with donor relationships. In a “moves management” system, you have a primary contact, but who is the backup for when the primary contact is sick or leaves your organization on short notice?
For several months, I was really challenged with recovering from ankle surgery in November. I’m embarrassed to mention it because I have too many friends battling life-threatening and chronic injuries. But I love my work and the injury kept me from doing what I normally would do—and what I wanted to do. So, I had to utilize backup in many areas.
I did have a major fail in this strategy. In January, after driving five hours to a prospective client presentation (against doctor’s orders), I had to walk forever (even using my handicapped parking status) at a major convention center. I was in a boot and on crutches. When I arrived to make the presentation I was writhing in pain and could not focus.
Where was my backup? We had two team members in this area, both of whom could have joined me or replaced me and hit a home run. I did not heed my own counsel—if I had a backup plan this would have been a seamless presentation.
Think of your key development and related positions—even if you are a shop of one.
What are the critical functions and what are your backup plans? Think of your relationship strategies with key donors and prospective funding partners. What are your backup plans?
None of us are irreplaceable and indispensable. So don’t plan or operate like anyone is.
Be sure that you have a backup plan! It can not only enrich your ongoing fundraising but it will one day save you!
Looking for Jeff? You'll find him either on the lake, laughing with good friends, or helping nonprofits develop to their full potential.
Jeff believes that successful fundraising is built on a bedrock of relevant, consistent messaging; sound practices; the nurturing of relationships; and impeccable stewardship. And that organizations that adhere to those standards serve as beacons to others that aspire to them. The Bedrocks & Beacons blog will provide strategic information to help nonprofits be both.
Jeff has more than 25 years of nonprofit leadership experience and is a member of the NonProfit PRO Editorial Advisory Board.