What Is A Development Plan

Sections of this topic

    Someone asked, recently, about putting together a “fundraising plan.” My response was about creating a “Development Plan.”

    Where the latter has its focus on the relationships between the organization and its constituents/donors that can result in contributed income, the former just focuses on the dollars. And, when just focusing on dollars is sometimes OK for the short-term, it’s quality relationships that result in consistent dollars over-the-long-term.

    It must also be understood that Development Plans are constructed for specific sets of circumstances — there is no one-fits-all model.

    The basics of a Development Plan:

    Before the Development Plan comes the Strategic Plan … to determine priorities and where the organization wants to be by the end of this year, in two years, in three years … and for what programs/staff/equipment/overhead/etc. funding will be needed.

    The development plan functions to help you keep in mind where the money came from last year, what you had to do to get it*, and what you’re going to have to do to get that same money this year. Secondarily, the development plan looks at how to increase funding from former sources and generate new money from new sources.

       [*…referring to the various methods of cultivation as well as the various
       methodologies for fundraising, i.e., direct mail, major gifts, events, etc.]

    At the end of the process of constructing a Development Plan, you have a fundraising goal for the year (or for whatever period you’re doing the planning), a goal that MUST reflect reality. It must represent what you know of the organization’s fundraising history and what you know about your prospective new donors.

    That goal must be attainable, it cannot contain any element of wishful thinking, If the fundraising goal and the projected income from all other sources don’t add up to what the budget requires, it’s the budget that must be trimmed, not the fundraising goal that must be increased.

    In constructing a Development Plan, you must keep in mind that where fundraising serves the needs of the nonprofit organization (NPO), it is not about the needs of the NPO. Fundraising is about the needs of the (prospective) donor. If your Development Plan doesn’t consider the donor’s needs, how can you expect him/her to consider yours?

    (See: Fundraising or Not Fundraising, That is The Question)


    Have a comment or a question about starting or expanding your fundraising program? Email me at AskHank@Major-Capital-Giving.com. With over 30 years of counseling in major gifts, capital campaigns, bequest programs and the planning studies to precede these three, we’ll likely be able to answer your questions.