In my last column, I wrote about the process for creating a fund development plan that produces ownership and results. Now, let’s talk about the content of the plan. Here’s some of what I want in my fund development plan:

* Relationship-building strategies

Your relationship-building program is, perhaps, the single most important part of a comprehensive fund development program. As such, relationship-building strategies (and measures) are a central component of your written plan. And, I expect to see both donor-centered communications and extraordinary experiences outlined.

* Solicitation strategies

Of course, you do have to ask. So, include solicitation strategies, too. And please make sure that your plan includes personal, face-to-face solicitation. Board members help make these solicitations. I believe that personal, face-to-face solicitation needs to be a major component of your fundraising.

* Measures

Define what you will measure. And remember that you should measure more than money and your number of donors. Make sure you measure the comprehensiveness and effectiveness of your relationship-building strategies. Measure board member performance. Measure loyalty. For more about measures, see Keep Your Donors and Strategic Fund Development (3rd edition).

* Timeframes

I always include a calendar, organized by months of the fiscal year. I plot out the solicitation and relationship-building strategies on the calendar.

* Assignments of accountability

I also want assignments of accountability. What work belongs to staff? What tasks will board members take on? Where do the board and its fund development committee fit in?

* Process for monitoring progress and evaluating effectiveness

But I want more. I want the fund development plan to document other actions to improve strategy. Here’s an example from one of the fund development plans that I’ve written:

Goal: Professionalize the process of fund development within the institution.


  1. Put in place the appropriate systems, policies, and procedures to support a comprehensive development program.
  2. Provide training and coaching for staff.
  3. Establish a board-level strategic fund development committee.
  4. Set up a management information system that maintains quality information about donors and prospects.
  5. Build a culture of philanthropy throughout the organization.

Here’s another example:

Goal: Assure quality information to support strategic conversation and decision-making.


  1. Optimize use of a management information system to collect information about donors and prospects.
  2. Prepare fund development reports that analyze trends and implications
  3. Engage staff, committees, and the board in strategic conversation to support quality decisions.

And here’s yet another example:

Goal: Improve board support for philanthropy and fund development.


  1. Adopt policies defining the role of the board (governance) and performance expectations of board members, including specifics related to fund development.
  2. Ensure that screening interviews with candidates clearly communicate the philanthropy and fund development expectations of board members, along with other performance measures.
  3. Provide training opportunities for board members to expand their familiarity with fund development and reduce their anxiety.
  4. Strengthen staff’s capacity to enable board members to participate in fund development.

This fund development plan—which essentially describes the institution’s fund development program—is a really big deal. This planning process and the resulting plan warrants attention from the highest levels of your institution. And I expect board and board member participation.

For more details and sample plans, see Strategic Fund Development: Building Profitable Relationships That Last (3rd edition).