Polish Your Communication and Fundraising Skills with Your Strategic Plan

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    Recently I wrote an article on my blog, Marion Conway – Consultant to Nonprofits entitled “Rethink…Energize…Action! Connect Your Strategic Plan and Fundraising.” I announced the post in the LinkedIn groups Strategic Planning for Nonprofits and Boardsource with the question, “If you lead a strategic planning process do you connect it with an organization’s fundraising process?” The question is still generating some thoughtful responses and this article shares the comments added by experts to my original article.

    In the original article I talked about how when you develop a strategic plan, it should energize staff and board members to be more involved in fundraising. The plan and the planning process should enable you in communication and fundraising clearly with a focus on your mission, your goals and your priorities. The strategic plan helps you find and organize the words that lead to action and results. This is an important output for any strategic plan.

    A comment made by Dan Clark startled me at first. He said “Your post helps a nonprofit see the value of connecting their fund raising efforts to their mission.” My spotlight was on how doing a strategic plan could benefit your fundraising effort. But Dan reminds us that even if you aren’t doing a strategic plan make sure you are connecting your fund raising efforts with your mission.

    Don’t all nonprofits know that they need to connect their fund raising efforts to their mission? The answer is pretty much yes to that question but more lukewarm if asked how well they do it. Many nonprofits just don’t communicate why they are worthy of a donor’s gift very well. Your strategic plan should help you identify your strengths and opportunities. The planning exercises will help you frame stronger key messages. Having fundraising be an issue to be addressed in your strategic planning will make sure that communications about your mission, goals and specific plans are a key output item from your plan.

    Simone Joyaux and Marilyn Donnellan commented –each with their own framing – that the strategic plan should be holistic, encompassing all facets of the organization. I certainly agree but since my article had such a singular focus on fundraising I didn’t make that clear at all.

    Finally, Robert Hodge offered a fresh idea for a strategic plan. He recommends a two section approach – one for short term and one for long term. The short term plan addresses how limited resources are to be strategically allocated. The long term plan identifies the steps, priorities and additional resources needed to achieve them. The long range plan becomes the basis for fund raising apart from that of the annual fund. I was not familiar with this approach, but I can see how effective it can be in integrating your strategic plan and fundraising. Certainly, this is a good approach for an organization with very limited resources to come to terms with focusing on its priorities and having a plan that requires resource development for the next steps.

    When I work with an organization with a strategic plan I am always conscious that we will fail if we produce a nice binder or report that is filed away never to be looked at again. You want to have a report that becomes dog-eared with frequent use. Many nonprofits have done belt tightening due to the economy in the last few years. They are ready now, to take stock of where they are, define where they want to be and develop a plan for what they have to do to get to a healthier place. A lot is changing for nonprofits in the way we do business and expectations of us. Going through a strategic planning process, putting it all out on the table, deciding what your priorities are and recommitting to ACT on the priorities is a good first step to recovery. And yes, it is about a great deal more than fundraising.


    For more resources, see our Library topic Nonprofit Capacity Building.