Your Fund Development Plan: Finding a Process to Produce Ownership and Results

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I’ll bet you have a fund development plan—even if it isn’t written down. Maybe it’s in your head. Or maybe it’s a bunch of activities written on a calendar. But let’s make it a stronger plan. Here’s how:

First, know that the fund development plan belongs to the whole institution, not to the development office or to the development director, just like the budget does. In fact, the fund development plan is a partner to the budget. The best fund development plan outlines the strategies and tactics to achieve the charitable contributions goals in the budget.

But the fund development planning process tests the validity of the proposed charitable contributions goal. The fund development planning process uses several criteria to determine if the proposed goal is sufficiently realistic (balanced with good stretching) to be successful.

And the smart organization is really good at funding development planning so that the smart organization then changes the budget to accommodate the test results. Yes, the smart organization sets a charitable contributions goal based on a very good planning process. And then the organization reduces the overall expense budget accordingly.

I expect the board of directors to review and endorse the fund development plan. The board does this at the same time that it acts on the fiscal year budget. I also expect board members to complete a menu of choices that reflect their commitment to helping implement the fund development plan. And, of course, I expect the fund development committee and board—in partnership with staff—to monitor progress, talk about results, and make changes for the future.

How do you create this fund development plan? What are the key elements of the planning process? How can you make sure that your fund development plan produces ownership and results?

First, keep in mind that fund development planning requires your enabling skills. Take a look at my column on enabling, and then try the following tips:

  1. First, think of this as strategic planning. The same rules apply. For example, you should engage key stakeholders in the planning process. Make sure you have ongoing conversations throughout the year with staff colleagues, the fund development committee, and the board of directors.
  2. Gather quality information about your fund development results for the past several years. Analyze the trends and implications. Highlight the key takeaways and leverage points. Share the trends and implications with your stakeholders. Engage them in meaningful conversation that produces understanding, ownership, and change.
  3. Regularly share the body of knowledge with your stakeholders and decision makers. Explain the why, not just the how. Make sure your key stakeholders and decision-makers understand the distinction between the body of knowledge and uninformed personal opinion.
  4. Debrief every fund development activity and identify improvements. Engage stakeholders in conversations about those improvements and secure support.
  5. Identify the barriers that your board and board members have regarding fund development. Engage your fund development committee in this conversation and, together, figure out some strategies to remove the barriers.
  6. Take every opportunity to help your board members understand the basic principles of fund development. Do this through sharing research from the field in brief snippets at a board meeting. Share some of my basic principles of fund development .

Want to see plans that reflect these guidelines? Look in the appendices of the third edition of my book, Strategic Fund Development: Building Profitable Relationships That Last. For complete details on the planning process, read chapter nine. Now that we’ve covered the process for creating a fund development plan that produces ownership and results, next time I’ll discuss the content of the plan itself.