What's Missing from your Nonprofit's Strategic Plan – Part I: Development
What's Missing from your Nonprofit's Strategic Plan – Part I: Development

What's Missing from your Nonprofit's Strategic Plan – Part I: Development

03/03/2023 by Andrew Fretwell
Time after time we see these overlooked questions trip up nonprofits’ long-term strategies and ambitions.

Spoiler Alert: it’s tech. Tech is what’s missing.

Strategic plans produce compelling vision, inspired goals, and thoughtful contemplation upon not only what is and has been, but what could be. 

Once articulated and approved, a strategic plan can guide executives and managers as they adapt and maneuver a shifting and obscured landscape. And yet, so frequently they are undermined and made hollow by what is missing. People, purpose, and programs can only take you so far before embarking upon the Sisyphean path. 

What too many strategic plans miss is an intentional set of investments into the tooling that make visions achievable and strategic objectives attainable. 

In this three-part series, I will lay out how technology is an essential platform where many strategic pillars sit, beginning with development. Fundraising is in almost every strategic plan, as it should be. If an organization wants to do big things it needs to produce the resources to do so. Some strategic plans include capital campaigns for physical builds, ongoing growth of donations for new programs, or seed funding and scholarships. 

There is a range of how much detail is included in how they will achieve their monetary goals, but there are some very basic and critical technology considerations that rarely make it into the final draft. By leaving them unaddressed, they open holes for hard questions, such as...

How will we effectively plan and execute this development plan?

For example, how does a development team create an action plan with transparency, consistency, and accountability?  

The more energy required of your team to understand the basic motions of how to incrementally grow the commitment of your donors, the less energy they can spend on actually doing it. Additionally, the more energy a development manager has to spend tracking down whether or not proper outreach tasks are being performed, the less energy they can spend hunting down major donors. So what to do?

The right platform will enable you to develop engagement tiers for your donors with an appropriate set of outreach tasks to incrementally grow the commitment of each donor accordingly. 

A GREAT platform will allow you to set up automated tasks that are assigned to the appropriate team member, with an easy way for your team members to “check the box” that they did it.

How do we know we have the bandwidth for this?

An essential step to fundraising is streamlining your internal operations.

If you can reduce the energy that goes into a given gift, you have time to get way more of them. But streamlining processes is a lot bigger than just a round of meetings and updated protocols. A streamlined fundraising organization has to seamlessly follow the lifecycle of a grant without any hitches from the application to acceptance to disbursement, execution, and reporting of results. 

Your team will spend most of its time connecting dots. The question is, will those dots even be on the same piece of paper? 

The right tools will help you avoid that situation. 

If you want to get more major gifts you need to set up your team so that the full lifecycle of a grant occurs and iterates within a single source of truth. If each of those steps is happening in a disconnected data silo, your team will expend too much energy and thought in stitching together the full story of a grant.

How can we be confident we know what it takes to accomplish these goals?

A common best practice is to carefully consider what metrics are the most significant to your fundraising organization, determine where you believe you are reasonably capable of achieving, put a flag in the sand, and then chase that number as if your organization depended on it (because it does!). This should be obvious, but you can only do this if a few basic conditions exist. 

First and foremost, you must have enough usable data for this process to work. You know how many dollars you brought in, you know how many gifts comprise that amount, and you may intuit a few other things — like seasonal fluctuations, types of grants you have a higher success rate, etc. 

But some of the most important metrics you can understand are the ones you directly control. Not the outputs, but the inputs. 

How many touchpoints does it require to generate a gift of $100? 

What about $1M? 

And more specifically, what kind of touchpoints are needed? 

If you don’t have the technology to provide you with a feedback loop on what activities are the highest value your roadmap to achieving big dollars cannot be data-driven.

But if it does, then your goals can shift from simply the output...

“We will raise $10M this year in gifts of $100,000 and over”

to also include the input:

“We will meet in person with each large gift provider four times in person, maintain a weekly email correspondence, and host at 1 event this year to achieve $10M in large gifts.”

And if you want to accelerate how quickly you can reach that goal, AI tools like Salesforce’s Einstein for Nonprofits can already begin guiding you on what the indicators are for a donor to give, and you can start building around that.

So fundraisers, when your executive pulls you into their office to chat about the latest iteration of the next strategic plan and the development goals they want to include, that is your time to say,

“Well, that number really depends on a lot of factors, among them which tools my team has at their disposal. How much are we willing to set aside upfront and ongoingly in high ROI technology?” 

Now you’re TALKING!

Want to chat more about this? Reach out to Arkus through our contact form or find me on LinkedIn!