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Development Planning - Why bother?

We have all seen it happen: A major grant comes to an end and suddenly an agency needs to examine whether it can continue a successful new program. Or, the annual gala just isn’t attracting the crowd it once did and, after the latest one, the Development Committee is wondering how to make up for what was not raised. Or, maybe that rummage sale has become far more work than it is worth.

It is inevitable that streams of support ebb and flow. Foundations shift interests. Events lose their cachet. Major donors react to changes in their circumstances.

To avoid the need to be urgently reactive, savvy nonprofit leaders regularly ask themselves how they can both deepen and broaden their streams of support, avoiding over-dependence on some and inattention to others. Instead of an ad hoc approach, they are proactive and comprehensive, setting goals and devising strategies aimed at support that is truly sustainable.

Start with an understanding of facts and trends…

A sound development planning process starts with a thorough review of all current sources of income, along with relevant related functions such as external communications and public relations. If possible, it is most helpful to review the practices and results of the prior three years, establishing annual averages and trend lines for all significant sources of income – annual appeal, special events, foundation grants, special gifts, and so forth.

…Then build on what is possible

With a firm understanding of the funding situation as a whole, it is then possible to set ambitious yet realistic goals for each area of support. A plan typically sets targets in both dollars and participants. For related functions, such as community affairs and public relations, the plan names goals pertaining to public awareness or alliances. Along with the goals, the plan identifies strategies to meet them.

A Prudent Investment

The end result of this effort is a roadmap that shows the way to a more stable base of support, along with a set of guidelines for sustaining that base over time. Development planning will not solve a current crisis – but it will equip you to avoid crises down the road.