Plan A, Plan B or No Plan?
I was recently invited to speak to 15 fundraising professionals in a three-hour "conversation" discussion group. I love to instruct and interact so I looked forward to this engagement.
They wanted to discuss a variety of topics and issues relating to fundraising. They represented many organizations from large to small in size. Their work roles varied from president to executive director to director of development. The majority of these individuals managed others while raising funds and coordinating volunteers. Most of these professionals where mid-career in scope and had been in their current jobs for several years. Each person had work issues and sought advice.
I had lectured for several minutes when I stopped and asked a question — do you have a written operational plan to follow for you and your team? I thought I knew the answer based upon my experience in the past.
When I joined my current position, there was no plan to be found so I created one. The results from the group were made loud and clear. The final vote tallied 13 did not have any written plans and two had written plans. No wonder individuals within the group seemed frustrated with their jobs. No one is going to hand them a GPS. They have to establish a master operational plan on their own.
Why do you need a plan? Having a plan helps you see and evaluate the current road map already in place. A plan review helps you determine what resources your organization needs and helps you set goals and objectives for the future. Having said this, you must be experienced with plans and have a vision for what the "master" plan should be, or you may be missing the boat. In this case, mentors, peers or consultants can provide templates for you to use.
A fundraising plan is like a mixing bowl that requires a number of ingredients to be successful. Elements in the bowl should include a case statement, fundraising goals, resources needed, timetables, metrics, target markets, mission, needs statement, vehicles to use, budget, volunteers, board involvement and more. I created sub-teams in my organization representing annual gifts, major gifts, planned gifts, development services and marketing/communications. I asked each new team leader to create a minimum one-page template "plan" with various required elements knowing he or she would have additional notes and materials as tactics to the plan. I emphasized the use of metrics such as number of donors, number of gifts, volunteers engaged, number of solicitations, total number of events, etc.
Each one-page plan was high-level and included goals and objectives, financial targets and volunteer targets, net income results, master calendar plus other features. The team leaders shared this information with their entire staffs, administration, development/marketing board committees and other germane parties. I worked with the team leaders on drafts of their individual plans and personally created a master plan from each team plan.
It was an interesting and stimulating process that brought a new level of awareness to the organization. The players on the team are now aware of the concept of "ROI," return on investment, and see their work more clearly. They also realize they must be accountable for success using metrics that can be studied and improved with each passing fiscal year.
Through the planning process, I encourage my team to critique every activity, seek best-of-class examples, evaluate resources and promote "out of the box" thinking. I believe an operational plan is a dynamic and constant operation in motion. Every stakeholder in the organization should be involved in the planning process and sign off on the final operational plan.
To the two people in the discussion group who had a plan, congratulations and I hope it works for you. For the 13 people in the discussion group who did not have an operational plan, get moving on the creation of a plan today. If someone asks you in the future if you have a plan in place, I hope you answer with a plan A or plan B. Having no plan is no longer an acceptable response.
Duke Haddad, Ed.D., CFRE, is currently associate director of development, director of capital campaigns and director of corporate development for The Salvation Army Indiana Division in Indianapolis. He also serves as president of Duke Haddad and Associates LLC and is a freelance instructor for Nonprofit Web Advisor.
He has been a contributing author to NonProfit PRO since 2008.
He received his doctorate degree from West Virginia University with an emphasis on education administration plus a dissertation on donor characteristics. He received a master’s degree from Marshall University with an emphasis on public administration plus a thesis on annual fund analysis. He secured a bachelor’s degree (cum laude) with an emphasis on marketing/management. He has done post graduate work at the University of Louisville.
Duke has received the Fundraising Executive of the Year Award, from the Association of Fundraising Professionals Indiana Chapter. He also was given the Outstanding West Virginian Award, Kentucky Colonel Award and Sagamore of the Wabash Award from the governors of West Virginia, Kentucky and Indiana, respectively, for his many career contributions in the field of philanthropy. He has maintained a Certified Fund Raising Executive (CFRE) designation for three decades.