A Fundraising Program’s Secret Ingredient: A Plan

In fundraising, there is no silver bullet, no pixie dust to sprinkle, no incantation to chant and the only potion I’ve ever known anyone to brew entailed a strong portion of tequila. I own two wands, both pink and sporting Disney princesses, but I suspect neither contains any actual magical properties. Fundraising is about relationship building, hard work, and a good plan.

In fact, according to the Third Space Studio, it’s a whole lot more about the plan than we may have realized in the past.

The Study

Every year, the Third Space Studio embarks on a study of nonprofits with budgets of $2 million or less which is about 90% of all nonprofits because the overwhelming number of nonprofits are small nonprofits.

The Third Space surveys a growing number of organizations in this category annually and tracks a number of different variables to analyze what accounts for the differences among them in their fundraising results. Among the factors the study examines: whether or not the organizations hire a fundraising professional, the size of the organization’s staff, the size of the development professional’s salary (which, arguably, is a flawed, but approximate measure for experience), whether or not the organization conducted face-to-face fundraising, the issue focus of the organization (health, education, religion, children and youth, animal welfare, number of donors, whether or not the organization is a membership organizations, as well as some other additional factors.  The study conducts statistical analysis to determine which—if any—of these factors plays a role in driving fundraising results.  

The Findings

What the Third Space found is that there is no correlation between fundraising results (as measured several different ways including by amount of money raised through individual gifts or as number of donors) and any other factor they tracked EXCEPT whether or not there was a development plan. In other words, none of the factors listed above—whether or not the organization employed a development director, whether or not they conducted face-to-face fundraising, whether or not they were a membership organization, etc.—none of those factors mattered except whether or not there was a development plan.  

However, when they controlled for whether or not there was a development plan, THEN, there was a difference in other factors. In other words, IF you had a development plan, then investing in greater salary for a development director makes a difference, for example, or working to engage your board makes a difference.  But, no development plan and doing these things, isn’t effective.  It’s the development plan that matters!

Creating a development plan is the single most important thing you can do to improve your fundraising results!

It’s the Process of Creating the Plan That Matters

Even more interesting is that the organizations in their study rarely consulted their development plans. It isn’t that they carefully followed their plan or referred to it often. It seems it was the process of creating the plan, of thinking through their fundraising goals and strategies, setting timelines and accountabilities that created the success—writing the plan not using the plan.

Our Course

We’re believers! That’s why we’re offering a three-week special course on creating a development plan.  The exercise of planning is a great one for nonprofit organizations. If you want to ensure you hit your revenue targets for 2016, begin the year with a plan.

 Copyright Shutterstock.com/kbuntu. Used with permission.

Copyright Shutterstock.com/kbuntu. Used with permission.

Our Development Plan Course not only teaches you the theory of fundraising planning, it walks you through the process. Meeting just one day a week for three weeks, you’ll create a complete fundraising plan for the year that will allow you to increase your organization’s revenue.

Sign up today!

Questions? Contact me!


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