“In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.”

― General Dwight D. Eisenhower

A new fiscal year means a fresh start, allowing you to set new goals that respond to and build upon the previous year.

But having goals isn’t enough.  

How will you reach those goals? What do you need to be successful?  

If you want to reach your revenue goals, you need to create a development plan for each new fiscal year. This plan is also essential for setting up long-term, sustainable growth.  

When I say “development plan,” I mean more than just a set of lists, calendars, and activities. The most valuable plan creates a strategy for connecting and communicating with your donors in ways that will increase revenue.

These are the five key elements your development plan should have if you want to boost your fundraising revenue:

  • Reflecting and building on the past
    Growth only happens when you learn from the past. Look back at the previous year to evaluate how things went. Did you meet your goal? If so, what can you build on next year? If not, what do you need to adjust? What metrics around donor giving patterns can you use to set new goals for next year? Here’s a tip: Donor retention rates and average gift amount are important data points to consider.


  • Balancing your portfolio
    Putting all your eggs in one basket is not sustainable. If your funding generally comes from one source more than any others, it’s time to think about how to balance and diversify. This might mean looking at welcoming more individual donors rather than relying primarily on foundations and/or corporations. Your plan can help you map how, when, and where to communicate with and get to know your donors.


  • Setting the stage for major gifts
    Every organization, no matter how small, can and should raise major gifts. A successful major gifts program doesn’t focus on high net-worth individuals with no connection to your organization. In fact, your next major gift will likely come from one of your existing donors who has capacity, who has been supporting you for a long time (though not at particularly high levels), and may also be involved as a volunteer. If your bandwidth is limited, your development plan can put on paper the top three to five activities you will do to focus more on raising major gifts. You can even set a small goal for yourself to help you keep on task making those larger asks.


  • Creating greater donor engagement
    It’s easy to assume that because donors have chosen to invest in our cause, they will give again each time we ask. Nonprofits on average lose more than 60 percent of their donors each year because they haven’t figured out the right way to make their donors feel really valued. Donors want to know their gift has made a difference before making another gift. Map out a regular calendar of solicitations, annual reports, newsletters, events, holiday and birthday cards (as just a few examples) that highlight stories of successes, progress, results, and even failures and challenges.  


  • Laying the foundation for tomorrow
    Once you lose donors, it’s hard to get them back. It’s why your limited bandwidth must focus first on donor retention. That said, it is still important to plant the seeds for the next pipeline of donors to your organization. The best potential new donors are people already connected to you or self-identified with you in some way. Perhaps it’s through a website sign-up, following you on social media, event attendance, or a visitor book. Every follower, volunteer, and new name that crosses your doorway can be a potential investor in your work. Welcome them with a specific set of touchpoints that encourages them to stay involved with you.

Truth is, we craft our development plans in a crowded landscape. The U.S. is home to 1.8 million nonprofits, with about 75,000 new nonprofits registering with the IRS each year. And if you feel like the room is crowded, so do your donors! This is why it’s so important to intentionally plan your activities around what will best build donor relationships.

Join Barbara for a live online training,  “How to Set Yourself on a Path for Fundraising Success—Keys to Effective Development Planning”, on July 24, 2018 from 2-3:30 pm EST. She’ll dive into more specifics designed to help you create a plan for building relationships and propelling your fundraising success forward.

About the Author(s)

Barbara O’Reilly Principal and Founder Windmill Hill Consulting



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