Writing your resource development plan in steps: Step Four
Welcome to the fourth part of this ongoing series of posts on how to write your non-profit organization’s annual resource development plan. As I’ve previously mentioned, this series was inspired by how many DonorDreams blog readers were clicking on the “Time to start writing your 2015 resource development plan” post, which I wrote a year ago.
The first post in this series was titled “Writing your resource development plan in steps: Step One,” and it focused exclusively on the importance of putting the right people at the table. The second post was “Writing your resource development plan in steps: Step Two,” and addressed pre-planning activities such as evaluation and assessment. The last post — “Writing your resource development plan in steps: Step Three” — walked readers through writing a statement of fundraising purpose as well as developing both financial and non-financial goals.
Today’s post is all about the next step, which of course is about developing strategies and tactics. Enjoy!
In the previous post in this series, we talked about two different types of goals — financial goals and process goals. We will mirror that approach in today’s post in order to keep things clear.
Strategies for financial goals
Identify all of the fundraising campaigns, events, and activities you plan on doing in the upcoming year. Here are a few examples: golf outing, gala dinner & auction, direct mail, major gifts initiative, annual campaign, grant writing, etc.
For each of your events, campaigns and activities, create a worksheet that includes the following:
- Annual goal
- Description of leadership needs
- Preliminary prospect list of volunteers
- Number of donor prospects needed
- Rough draft expense budget (if applicable)
- Objectives that are essential to reaching the financial goal (e.g. securing five new sponsors, securing 20 new pledges, selling three new tables, securing $XXXX from the fund-a-need auction strategy, etc)
- List of critical tasks and deadlines (e.g. first planning meeting date, signing golf course contract, recruiting key volunteer leaders, starting board campaign solicitations, completing sponsorship solicitations, taking the program book to the printer, etc)
- Calculations at the bottom of each worksheet for total net revenue and expenses as a percentage of projected revenue (include the estimated cost of staff time)
I also suggested you include individualized range of gifts charts (ROG chart) for each of your events and campaigns (of course you wouldn’t do this for your grant writing worksheets). Our friends at Blackbaud have a nice online ROG chart calculator; however, it is sometimes better to work it out on paper in which case there is a very nice set of written instructions on how to do this over at about.com.
From a process perspective, it is important to enlist help from your committee volunteers (and possibly other volunteers who are more involved in your events and campaigns) in completing these worksheets.
Remember what we talked about in the first post of this blog series . . . “S/he who writes the plan, owns the plan. And s/he who owns the plan is the only person who will care enough to implement the plan.”
When everyone is done with their respective worksheets, ask the entire committee to review and discuss. Depending on the level of feedback, there may be additional changes to be made.
The information from each of these worksheets is copy/paste into the written resource development plan on the pages set aside for each respective event, campaign or activity.
When the time comes to start planning for an event or campaign, it makes sense to share the appropriate section of the resource development plan with the event/campaign planning committee. It will give them a starting point. In fact, you may want to share this information with volunteer prospects during recruitment meetings to help frame expectations and provide clarity around what you’re asking them to help you undertake.
After this exercise, you may need to revisit the trends/goals chart you created as part of the previous blog post and make revisions.
Strategies for non-financial goals
As you recall from the previous post, there is a section of the resource development plan that includes process goals. These non-financial goals could focus on: new prospect acquisition; cultivation activities; donor retention & stewardship; marketing and donor communication; board member engagement; and evaluation and monitoring.
I’ve seen these sections get large and complicated. I suggest keeping it simple.
After working with your volunteers on identifying three to five process goals, staff should roll up their sleeves and re-write each goal using SMART goal verbiage. After this is accomplished, simply re-engage your volunteers in answering these simple questions for each goal:
- What do we need to do to accomplish this goal?
- Who needs to be involved?
- When does each task need to be accomplished?
Take the answers to these questions, re-word them into succinct bullet points and include them under each goal.
Develop a comprehensive resource development calendar
Your organization has limited resources, which is why it’s important to create a comprehensive resource development calendar. The following is a simple example to help get you started:
I suggest doing this activity as a group. Make sure to include pre-activity planning time and post-activity evaluation/assessment time in your calendar.
If you end up with too many things happening in one month, then you might want to tweak your plans to avoid headaches and problems.
Well, congratulations! If you’ve done everything in all four of the blog posts in this series and massaged it together in one document, then you have a draft plan in hand. Not only was it fairly simple, but it engaged volunteers in the process, which hopefully means you’re not in this thing alone. 🙂
There are a few odds and ends that I’d like to speak to with regard to this process, and I plan on doing so in the final blog post in this series next week. Stay tuned!
Here’s to your health!
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC
Writing your resource development plan in steps: Step Three
As I explained last week, one of the most often clicked blog posts in 2015 is something I wrote at the end of 2014 titled “Time to start writing your 2015 resource development plan“. With this in mind, I decided to take a deeper dive on this subject by writing a series of posts on how to go about writing your organization’s annual resource development plan.
The first post in this series was titled “Writing your resource development plan in steps: Step One,” and it focused exclusively on the importance of putting the right people at the table. The second post was “Writing your resource development plan in steps: Step Two,” and addressed pre-planning activities such as evaluation and assessment.
Today’s post is all about the next step, which of course is about visioning and goal setting. Enjoy!
Statement of Fundraising Purpose
With your volunteers sitting around the planning table and your organization’s resource development assessment data gathered and digested, it is now time to cast your vision for the upcoming year. This can be accomplished with the following exercise:
- Ask participants to take 5 minutes to jot down answers to this question: “Why are we raising money?“
- At the end of the 5 minutes, go around the room and ask participants one at a time to share one of the reasons they wrote down.
- Capture these responses on a flip chart or whiteboard
- Keep going around the room until there is nothing left on anyone’s scratch paper (ask participants not to share anything that has already been shared by someone else in order to keep the exercise moving along)
- Facilitate a discussion around everyone’s responses (e.g. does everyone agree with everything that was shared? if not, then why not?)
Staff should take all of this feedback and incorporate it into a few paragraphs that some fundraising professionals call the “statement of fundraising purpose“. This mini-proclamation is included in the beginning of your written resource development document. In the grand scheme of things, it serves as a precursor to developing your organization’s internal and external case for support documents for the upcoming year’s events, campaigns, mailings, and fundraising initiatives.
The following is a sample statement of fundraising purpose for a fictitious Boys & Girls Club that I dug out BGCA’s now defunct RD Plan software wizard that I referenced in the first blog post of this series:
“The Boys & Girls Club of ABC operates six Clubhouses that provide more than 2,400 boys and girls with positive and safe places to learn and grow, ongoing relationships with caring adult professionals, life-enhancing programs, character development experiences, hope and opportunity. The Boys & Girls Club of ABC relies upon the philanthropic support of individuals, corporations and foundations in order to sustain and grow its services. During 2007, The Boys & Girls Clubs of ABC completed a comprehensive strategic plan that showed a need for two additional Clubhouses to work with kids in the XYZ community. Studies showed that more than 1,000 kids in the XYZ community lack access to positive and safe places to learn and grow.
In order to add two new clubhouse facilities by 2009, The Boys & Girls Clubs of ABC will need to continue to raise annual operating support as well as complete a capital campaign for the construction of two new Clubhouses. Implementing this resource development plan, approved by the board of directors, creates and maintains a resource development program that will provide additional philanthropic funding to enable the Boys & Girls Club of ABC to reach its goal of directly serving 3,400 kids annually by the year 2010.”
Can you see why the statement of fundraising purpose is so important? It helps volunteers see your organization’s fundraising activities through the lens of your organization’s goals and helps everyone understand the importance of achieving your fundraising goals. It also helps reinforce that volunteers aren’t asking their friends for money for no good reason.
Goal Setting: Part One
There has to be hundreds of ways to skin this cat, and none of them are incorrect. The following method is very simple, and while it lacks a ton of process, it will get you where you need to go (but feel free to use whatever process best fits your organizational culture):
Step one: Prior to the meeting, pull together a chart illustrating: a) the three year trend for various sources of revenue, b) the percentage of total revenue each source of revenue constitutes, and c) a blank column for next year’s goal. The following is an example of what that chart could look like.
Step two: Facilitate a discussion among volunteers about what they see, and ask them to suggest reasons why the trends are what they are.
Step three: Facilitate a discussion among volunteers about where they want to see the numbers next year.
Is this three step process overly simple? Of course! Is there more to setting your revenue goals than simply pulling numbers out of the air? Of course!
This process is simply a starting point.
Over the course of your next few meetings, you and your volunteers will drill deeper on volunteer prospect lists, donor prospect lists, range of gifts charts, budgets, etc. We will talk about all of these things in the next blog post.
As the details get fleshed out, you will likely find yourself coming back to the goal numbers you initially included in this chart and revise them. So, make sure to use a pencil while facilitating this exercise. 🙂
Goal Setting: Part Two
The previous section sets the stage for establishing fundraising event and campaign goals; however, there are non-financial goals your team should also consider. Those non-financial goals could focus on: strategy, leadership, operation, donor relations, marketing and communication, and evaluation and monitoring.
These “process goals” impact your organization’s capacity to engage donors and perform resource development tasks.
The following are a few examples of process goals:
- Engage board members in the resource development process by involving them in the cultivation and stewardship of donors.
- Make sure that the organization has an electronic database that easily generates reports and enables effective management of donor relationships.
- Develop a written stewardship plan whereby every donor receives a minimum of four stewardship impressions every year and the Top 100 donors receive at least eight stewardship impressions.
You don’t need a facilitation process to have this discussion. Simply ask volunteers to share what they think are “foundational issues” necessary to underpin the organization’s fundraising success in the upcoming year. Once you capture those ideas, try to distill them down into three to five goal statements.
If you have more than three to five process goals, then ask volunteers to rank those goals with the intent of only including the top three to five goals in your written plan.
After this meeting, it is advisable for staff to work on these process goals and re-write them using SMART goal verbiage.
Congratulations . . . you’re well on your way to developing next year’s written resource development plan. In our next post, we will look at validating our goals and creating strategies and tactics.
Here’s to your health!
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC
Writing your resource development plan in steps: Step Two
As I explained at the beginning of this series of posts, one of the most often clicked blog posts in 2015 is something I wrote at the end of 2014 titled “Time to start writing your 2015 resource development plan“. With this in mind, I decided to take a deeper dive on this subject by writing a series of posts on how to go about writing your organization’s annual resource development plan.
The first post in this series was titled “Writing your resource development plan in steps: Step One,” and it focused exclusively on the importance of putting the right people at the table. Today’s post is all about the next step, which of course is about evaluation and assessment. Enjoy!
Now that you have all of the right people sitting around the table, the next thing you want to do is engage the group in assessment activities.
Why assessment? Here are just a few good reasons:
- You can’t decided where you’re going unless you know where you’re at
- Your volunteers need to get a pulse on the your resource development program (think of it as orientation)
- Identifying gaps and inefficiencies makes direction setting easier
As I mentioned in the first post of this series, my former employer — Boys & Girls Clubs of America — had developed an online software wizard (which has since been shutdown) to assist its local affiliates with writing an annual written resource development plan. This software was workbook driven and designed to help staff facilitate committee discussions and develop content to enter into the software. As you can imagine, the first two workbooks both dealt with assessment.
Workbook #1 contained 23 statements that describe various activities necessary to operate an effective resource development program. Each statement was accompanied by measurable standards, which were designed to help volunteers determine the best response rating for each quality statement. It would take too much space to copy/paste the entire workbook into this blog post; however, I will share the 23 quality statements. Hopefully, this will get you pointed in the right direction with regards to developing a self assessment tool that works for your organization and group of volunteers.
Resource Development Quality statements
- Our funding is diversified and we are not overly dependent on one source of revenue.
- Our board has approved a written multi-year strategic plan for our organization
- We are ensuring our organization’s sustainability through a current and active planned giving program
- We conduct well-planned special events that maximize return on investment.
- Our board members annually donate unrestricted philanthropic gifts to the organization.
- Our board members are involved in face-to-face solicitations.
- Our board members are engaged in stewardship activities for the organization.
- Our board members understand their resource development roles and responsibilities
- The leadership for each fundraising activity (i.e., annual campaign, special event, etc.) is carefully considered to ensure the right person is selected.
- We have adequate staff to support all of our resource development efforts.
- We effectively plan for and utilize volunteers in various components of our resource development plan.
- We use the most cost-effective and efficient methods to raise money for the organization.
- We have a Resource Development Committee that coordinates a written resource development plan that is consistent with the organization’s written strategic plan.
- We have a compelling case statement that demonstrates the needs of clients in our community and inspires charitable giving to the organization.
- We have a donor database that easily generates reports and enables us to effectively manage donor relations.
- We have procedures (a management system) to ensure that the organization uses donations as intended by the donor.
- We have an ongoing, written plan to recognize donors and engage them in organizational activities.
- In order to preserve and enhance confidence in the organization, we provide constituencies with reports regarding the sources, uses and management of donated funds (provide stewardship).
- We have written gift acceptance policies and procedures to acknowledge gifts in a timely manner based on the source of gift.
- Our CEO and board members serve on various community boards and civic organizations to influence decisions, create awareness and advocate for the organization and issues associated with our mission.
- We have an up-to-date written marketing plan that clearly identifies our key message and targeted audiences.
- We have an adequate system for providing reports to the Resource Development Committee and the board so that they can monitor progress of the resource development plan.
- We regularly review our funding and donor trends.
Other Questions Your Volunteers Will Want Answers To
After developing an assessment tool that addresses some or all of the aforementioned 23 quality statements, you will want to pull together data for your committee to digest. The following are just a few questions your volunteers will want to see answers to (as you have probably guessed, these questions all came from workbook two of BGCA’s software tool):
- Is there an increase in total funding from year to year? Why?
- Which funding stream is a strength for your organization? Why?
- Which funding stream is a weakness for your organization? Why?
- Which funding stream has the greatest opportunity for growth in the next 1, 2 or 3 years?
- Does your 3-year trend for revenue streams from individuals show an increase, decline or consistent level of funding? What is the reason for the change or lack of change in this funding source?
- Do you have a strong base of donors who give to your annual campaign?
- Do you have an endowment program? If not, what steps would need to be taken to establish an endowment program? If so, then what steps need to be taken to actively recruit funds for your endowment?
- Does your 3-year trend for revenue streams from corporate giving show an increase, decline or consistent level of funding? What is the reason for the change or lack of change in this funding source?
- Does your 3-year trend for special events show an increase, decline or consistent level of funding? What is the reason for the change or lack of change in this funding source?
- Do you collect contact information from everyone who participates in a special event? Why or why not?
- Do you have a plan to cultivate special event attendees? Why or why not?
- Can you reduce the number of special events you conduct and increase revenue in another funding stream that has a higher return on investment? What steps would your organization need to take in order to make this change?
- Does your 3-year trend for private grants and foundations show an increase, decline or consistent level of funding? What is the reason for the change or lack of change in this funding source?
- Are you receiving government funding at the city, state and federal level? If not, what strategies can you implement to gain funding?
As you can imagine, this is a lot of work. It is the staff’s job to develop the assessment tool and pull together the data to help volunteers answer these questions. It is your volunteers’ job to talk it through and do the actual assessment while sitting around the committee room table.
Cutting this corner means you will be putting your annual written resource development plan together in the dark. Remember, the old planning expression: “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there.” In other words, assessment activities and discussions are akin to developing the map you need in order to have fruitful planning discussions down the road (e.g. visioning, goal setting, strategy development, action plan writing, etc).
A special thanks to BGCA’s Paula Mackelburg who did much of the heavy lifting on creating this awesome (albeit now defunct) planning tool. Her wisdom and vision in this area is amazing.
Next week, we will continue this discussion and talk about visioning and goal setting. Stay tuned.
Here’s to your health!
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC
Writing your resource development plan in steps: Step One
A number of years ago, I served on an amazing team of resource development professionals at Boys & Girls Clubs of America (BGCA). Our team’s mission was to provide consulting services and tools to local affiliates to help them increase their individual giving. One of the tools the team created was an online software wizard to assist Clubs with writing their annual resource development plans. While it was an awesome tool, it wasn’t embraced or used by those on the front line.
My suspicion is that the process and online tool made this important annual planning process feel contrived and the writing was stilted. As a result, it never gained traction. Just a guess on my part, but I think I’m close to the truth. Nevertheless, it was a great idea!
I share this short story from my past because one of the most popular DonorDreams blog posts in 2015 was one I wrote at the end of last year titled “Time to start writing your 2015 resource development plan“.
With this data point in mind, my plan over the next few weeks is to break the planning process into steps to help readers of this blog with developing their organization’s 2016 written resource development plan.
And since BGCA already buried their online software wizard (and none of it was copyrighted), I plan on sharing small pieces of those workbooks throughout this series online articles. After all, I end many of my posts with the mantra that “We can all learn from each other!” Right?
Step 1: Recruit the right people to sit around the table
You’re busy. I get it! But it will be one of the biggest mistakes of your life if you lock yourself in your office and bang out your organization’s annual resource development plan.
Simply put . . . “S/he who writes the plan, owns the plan. And s/he who owns the plan is the only person who will care enough to implement the plan.”
Some organizations are fortunate enough to have a solid group of fundraising volunteers that constitute a resource development committee. This planning project is exactly what that committee should work on developing and getting the entire board of directors to own.
However, other organizations aren’t this fortunate and they need to assemble a task force of staff, board members, fundraising volunteers (and even donors in some instances) to assist with this project.
So, what types of people should be sitting around this table?
- People who are passionate about your mission and your organization
- People who are resource development minded
- People who embrace the idea of planning (they typically don’t have attention deficit disorder)
- People who have time to attend meetings and even do a little homework in between meetings
- People who are collaborative and have a track record with “engaging” other people in their work
- People who have experience with at least some part of your resource development efforts (e.g. special events, annual giving campaign, grant writing, year-end fundraising appeals, prospect cultivation, donor stewardship, planned giving, endowment, major gifts strategy, etc)
Identify these individuals. Write them down on a piece of paper (e.g. volunteer prospect list). Go recruit these people.
When recruiting these volunteers, do it the right way. Bring a written job description or committee charter with you. Why? Because when you don’t set expectations from the beginning, volunteers tend to disengage from the project relatively quickly.
One of the first questions you will be asked when recruiting these volunteers is: “How much time will this planning project take? How many meetings am I committing to? What am I committing to?”
Tackle these questions head on! Don’t waffle. Tell them the following:
- There will be approximately four to eight meetings
- Sometimes there will be a little work in between meetings
- This process is staff-supported and none of it is impossible or “rocket science”
- We will be respectful of your time
- This project has a defined beginning and end (it isn’t an open ended commitment)
- This plan is very important to the success of the organization, which is why we’re asking for your help
Once you assemble your team, you’ll be ready to roll up your sleeves and get to work.
The next blog post will focus on assessment. Stay tuned!
Here’s to your health!
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC
What are your non-profit agency’s foolish consistency and hobgoblins?
Welcome to O.D. Fridays at DonorDreams blog. Every Friday for the foreseeable future we will be looking at posts from John Greco’s blog called “johnponders ~ about life at work, mostly” and applying his organizational development messages to the non-profit community.
In a post titled “Adoring Hobgoblins,” John dissects the following quotation from Ralph Waldo Emerson: “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines.” He explains to readers that consistency can be a good thing, but it suddenly becomes a bad thing when it interferes with our good judgement and results in poor actions.
Reading this Emerson quotation set my mind down two different paths this morning. So, what the heck? Let’s go down two roads this morning.
Don’t have a written resource development plan?
It is a best practice in my book to engage board members and fundraising volunteers every year in a process that results in a written resource development plan (aka fundraising plan). It should provide definition and explanation to the revenue side of your agency budget.
Do you know how many non-profit organizations — big and small — with which I’ve worked that don’t do this? OMG . . . it is a crazy BIG number.
So, what do those organizations do if they aren’t operating with a resource development plan?
Yep . . . you guessed it. They are relying on “consistency” and sometimes it is “foolish consistency“.
For example, one organization I worked with many years ago didn’t see the need to develop an annual fundraising plan and pointed to their special event fundraisers as something they’ve been doing forever. One of their events had been run for more than two decades.
Their conclusion . . . “why waste time — that we don’t have — on writing this stuff down, especially when it hasn’t changed in two decades?”
Well, huh? Let me see here. Every good planning process begins with an assessment /evaluation which springboards off into goal setting, strategy development and action planning. If the organization I just referenced hadn’t been so “foolishly consistent,” they would’ve seen the following:
- The revenue from their signature event plateaued 13 years ago and has been in steady decline ever since
- Many of the people attending their event sit at corporate tables, and they do so anonymously. There were no strategies in place to capture individual donor data, which means the cultivation effect of that event is lost on those people.
- Many of the individuals who were die-hard supporters of that event were likely capable and willing to contribute more, but there were no upgrade strategies in place. So, money was being left on the table.
- There were hundreds of donors over a 20 year time span who had attended this event a few times and then stopped. There were no strategies to re-engage those lapsed donors either in the event or other places in the agency’s resource development plan.
If I’m not mistaken, these four bullet points are the personification of that “hobgoblin” in Emerson’s famous quotation. And, boy oh boy, what an ugly little hobgoblin it is.
I know that some people think of planning processes as a “foolish consistency“. I obviously DO NOT! In fact, I see it as just the opposite. A well-run planning process of any kind should:
- help your organization look at things differently
- keep a fresh perspective
- engage in dynamic brainstorming
- inspire change that keeps your agency’s growing
This brings me to the last portion of Emerson’s quotation “. . . adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines“. I would love to add the words “board volunteers and agency staff“.
The board members and executive director of the agency I reference in the example above certainly were “little“. I say this because their “foolish consistency” and unwillingness to do any assessment and planning had locked them into being a certain size. When you looked at their agency budget, they had brought in the same amount of revenue for the last 10 years.
Think about that for a moment. When you factor in inflation, this agency was contracting and raising less and less money every year. Foolish? Yes! Hobgoblins? Yes!! YES!! Little? Yes!!! Yes!!! Yes!!!
If your agency operates with a December 31st year-end fiscal year, then your budget construction process should be starting soon. If this is the case, then your resource development planning process should also be starting soon.
Do you need help with that planning process? If so, I know someone you should call who can help . . . you know who I mean. 😉
The other road referenced?
In the beginning of this blog post, I said John’s post centered on Ralph Waldo Emerson’s quotation set my mind down two different paths this morning.
When I first read John’s post, I immediately thought of how many times I’ve heard from non-profit board members, executive directors and fundraising professionals the following words:
“That’s not the way we do things around here”
Not only are these words (or other words that sound or mean the same thing) the equivalent of nails on a chalkboard, but they are downright poisonous to your non-profit organization.
I’ve run out of space, but luckily Seth Godin did a nice job of succinctly and eloquently addressing this issue on his blog. If you have 15 more seconds, then you really need to click-through and read Seth’s thoughts on these nine dangerous words.
Can you identify your agency’s “silly consistencies“? If so, what are they? Can you describe those hobgoblins? If so, what do they look like? Please scroll down and share your examples and thoughts as well as what you plan on doing about it in the comment box below. Why? Because we can all learn from each other.
Here’s to your health!
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC