Still working on your Development Plan?

It’s that time of year when organizations are finalizing their development plans for the upcoming year.
Whether you’re a development officer or a non-profit CEO, writing a development plan can be a daunting task, especially if it is the first time you’re going through the process.  I’ve been involved with organizations that had no plan document, just budget goals to achieve, as well as with some who had lengthy plans with a lot of narrative to go along with their goal numbers.  Why have I seen such a variation in plans (or lack thereof) over the years?  The simple answer is; every organization is different.  Organizations have different needs, different boards, and different sized development offices.  The key to putting together a development plan is creating one that works for you.
It may be January, but if you still want to craft a plan for 2017 and are afraid you’ve already missed the boat, fear not – you are not alone, and the exercise is still worthwhile.  My goal for this post isn’t to provide you with the answer of what your plan should look like, but to provide you with a few questions you should ask yourself as you move through the process in an effort to guide your plan.

1. Why am I doing this crazy thing?

If you are a seasoned development professional a lot of what you’ll do this year is natural to you, you do it every year, you know what goals you need to hit.  Even if you are a 1-person development office and your boss and board are exactly the same as last year, there is still merit in putting your plan on paper.  It doesn’t have to have an accompanying narrative, it can look similar to a GANTT chart, showcasing the major tasks, when they happen and your goals.  Even a document as simple as this would be extremely beneficial to your boss or board should you unexpectedly have to take leave, or get hit by the proverbial bus.

Think of it like an evaluation plan.  While you may have just rolled your eyes after reading those words, your development plan, at its core, is a type of evaluation plan.  It lays out your tasks, your outputs, outcomes, and goals.  If you are in a situation where you feel like your board doesn’t quite get what you spend your time doing, or you are gearing up to ask for an additional staff member for your department, your development plan could be your key to showing what you’re currently spending your time on, and the results you’re experiencing.  This is part of your case statement for going after additional resources if you can show an increased ROI with some additional investment.  Bonus: when you get that new staff member, your plan will serve as a great on-boarding tool!

2. Who is my audience?

This will dictate much of how you structure your plan and how detailed it will be.  Is this plan just for your team?  If so, are they new to the field, or seasoned professionals?  Is this plan for your leader or board?  If so, how much do they know (or want to know) about the pieces and parts of what you do throughout the year?

3. What should be in my plan?

So, thinking about your answers from questions #1 and #2, let’s think about the major pieces that should be in your plan…

Overall budget

What are your expected to raise this year as a whole?

Personally, I have two major buckets I build my plan toward – my unrestricted dollar (greatest need) goal and then my goal/projection for funds raised toward my current capital campaign.

Even if your major ask phase of your capital campaign is over and you are primarily concerned with making sure pledge payments are coming in, there is still work there on sending reminders and stewarding those donors so they continue to pay their pledges – don’t let folks forget that!

Your major budget buckets

  • Breakdown your overall budget into common chunks based on your sources of revenue – grants, special events, direct mail, major gifts, planned giving, earned income (if that falls under you), etc.

Activities

Now, highlight the major factors of what you’ll do to hit those budget goals. Make your high-level to-do list for the budget period.

Measurements: Lead & Lag

Consider using lead measures and lag measures.

If you have a new team, or really want to let your board have a deep dive into what you do, detail the lead measures (the calls, the lunches, the number of proposals you want to write, etc.) that will lead to the lag measures – the dollars that show up.  We know these things don’t magically happen, so talk about it.

Lead measures can also include mini-goals within your plan, such as securing 6 new corporate sponsors, 2 new foundation funders, or having X% of donors increase their giving over last year.  If you put it out there, you have something to measure against.  This also shows that you’re thinking of way and have small goals for increasing your donor base.

Stewardship plans

I’ve had some interesting chats with colleagues about where and how to put donor stewardship activities into development plans.  If you’re lucky enough to have a staff member dedicated to stewardship, they are most likely stewarding donors based on the buckets you outlined above.  So, if possible, divide up those pieces and talk about them within those buckets – what did you do with your direct mail folks, or event attendees, foundation funders, or capital campaign donors?  If this is difficult, the beauty of there being no one single development plan template means you can talk about these activities as a whole, and how they should influence the various goals.

4. Measure throughout the year

Look at your progress toward your goals.  Depending on your revenue mix, you will most likely have months with high dollar goals and some with lower goals based on when you’d expect grants to come in, or when special events are held, or direct mail is sent.  But looking at your progress quarterly will allow you to make course corrections if needed, or to content with the fact that everything is on track.

5. The year is over, now what?

Create your year-end wrap up.  If you’ve been monitoring your progress toward goals throughout the year, most of your work is done.  But a Year-End Wrap-up is a great piece to show your leader or board, you can explain any deviations and what you tried to do to fix them (if things were below goal) as well as what made the last year so successful (if you were above goal).  It certainly looks better to your board or leader if you can explain it, than to be surprised at the end of the year and say, “I don’t know why….”  Even if there is no smoking gun, you have a hunch, don’t you?  Sure you do!

6. Here’s the new plan, same as the old plan

Our field and what we know about grants and donor behavior is always changing and you’ll want your plan to keep up with the times.  However, try to make sure you’re looking at year-over-year progress toward goals, don’t just throw the old measures out.  If you need to tweak them or calculate them differently, do so, but denote this in your plan.  This will help keep your team on the same page about “how” you are measuring things, and will reassure your leader or board that you’re keeping an eagle eye on trends over time, even if the “how” it is being measured changes.  An * and an explanation will usually do the trick!

Remember, there is no one right way to craft a development plan.  It should be the right plan for you and your team, based on your organization’s needs.
Best of luck!
AmyL_w initial

New Year’s: Blah Blah Blah?

Happy New Year!

It’s a new year and I’m a process and planning person, so that means I’m supposed to be the one asking:

  • What are your goals for the new year?
  • Have you reviewed your long-range plan?
  • Do you have measurable objectives established for you and your team?

But. I’m. Not.

Why?

They should already be in place from last year!

Goal-setting and planning are often thought of as stand-alone events that happen once a year with great flourish and fanfare, more often than not at an offsite location where the leadership is quarantined off from the masses to establish the direction of the organization for the next 365 days, or perhaps longer.

While I am a proponent of leadership planning retreats, (after all if you aren’t at the office you aren’t distracted by operations), and having a strategic plan, the annual goal-setting exercise, when isolated, does not cultivate the fertile ground from which prosperity can grow; cultivation is an ongoing, year-around process.

Don’t get me wrong, if you are setting goals and reviewing plans and establishing performance metrics, I’m very happy! Let’s just take it a step further and establish the goal-reviewing, plan tweaking, measurement, and course overhauls that will be needed throughout the year.

Depending on the nature of your business, this may need to be done as often as monthly or can be done quarterly. Any less than quarterly and things can get away from you before you know it. Pick a day of the week that you generally can block a couple of hours, and put a reoccurring (monthly? every two months? quarterly?) event on your calendar now. Set your availability as busy. Treat the time as you would a mandatory meeting with your boss/client. When the time comes, here’s your agenda:

  1. Spend part of the time reviewing data supporting your goals and progress toward your benchmarks. Are you under-performing? Right on track? Are you blowing it out of the water?
  2. Determine what actions need to be taken regarding your performance so far. Do you need to determine why you are where you are? Do you need to establish more realistic (more or less challenging) goals based on true capacity?
  3. Next, review the performance data and possible actions with your team. Discuss trends they are experiencing, clear paths and obstacles they are encountering. Allow honesty and be open to the discussion. Just because you have given this some thought already, keep open ears, you may find that the boots on the ground are walking a different path than you perceive.
  4. Review needed actions and formalize any plan/goal/measure changes and add them to your planning documents.
  5. Continue to gather data and repeat on your next scheduled review.

This doesn’t have to take very long – an hour or two max, if you keep up on data gathering and do the review routinely. With a regular goal and performance measurement planning/reviewing, you see your progress and see your needs year-around and are prepared no matter what date the calendar says.

In business, as in life, the best resolution is to not have to make any resolutions – because you already have a plan and are working it! So, I won’t be asking about your resolutions, let’s bypass the rhetoric and blah, blah, blah that we typically spew forth this time of year and instead establish or continue our routine of evaluation and planning.

I will, however, wish you a Happy New Year! May you be prosperous in all your endeavors.

With Grantitude,

stacy sig jpg

 

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