Arts LeadersBest Practices

You Need a Development Plan to Truly Succeed

By May 24, 2017May 30th, 2017No Comments

When we join forces with a new client, one of documents we request in the “getting to know you” process is the development plan. In reality, not every organization has one of these tangible, centralized documents—it takes time to create, gather strategic input from various parties, and update your fundraising road map on an annual basis. However, it’s one of the most important tools for your success!

Source after source after source point to this, not to mention the fact that we’ve seen the benefits at play first-hand. And once your team makes creating a development plan a top priority, you’ll see how much it helps to drive the department’s efforts towards its targets each year.

Instead, they provide your team with a full overview of all the components required to drive success. We favor plans that contain the following elements:

Financial Goals

A robust plan incorporates a series of financial targets for the year including:

  • Overall Fundraising Goals: A summary of contributed revenue goals for the fiscal year.
  • Fundraising Goals by Sector of Support: Detailed goals for each sector of support, including Board, Individuals, Special Events, Foundations, Corporations, and Government funders.
  • Quarterly Goals by Sector: It’s a smart practice to set benchmarks for each quarter, in each sector. This create a way for you and your team to measure performance towards your annual goals throughout the fiscal year, and take corrective action if something goes amiss.
Grant Calendar

The grant calendar should go beyond simple proposal deadlines to guide your overall annual work plan:

  • Grant Applications: Note the hard and soft deadlines for all applications, renewals, and proposals to current, lapsed and prospective supporters.
  • Grant Reports: Reports should either be scheduled as required by funders or submitted within 60 days of the fiscal year close to all institutional supporters.
  • Inquiries for Prospective Supporters: Schedule formal, written inquiries for new support from prospective funders throughout each year. Also, remember to note and calendar the associated cultivation and personal outreach efforts for these prospects.
  • Meeting Reminders: Map out an ongoing schedule of reminders for personal and/or phone meetings with all major current, prospective, and lapsed supporters. This will keep those ongoing cultivation, follow up and progress report activities from being moved to the back burner.
Events Calendar

A centralized overview of all annual events—large and small—that offer cultivation and engagement opportunities for your donors and prospects is critical. Not only does it help with logistics and workload management, but it also keeps the full department aware of upcoming opportunities to better engage their portfolio of supporters.

Development Department Budget

The development department budget should ground the plan and include analysis of the return on investment on staff, events, and activities to always maximize efficiency. It’s also useful to track your cost per dollar raised, as many donors and funders are interested in this metric and how it changes from year to year.

Summer is approaching, and for those with June 30th fiscal year ends, it’s a perfect time to assess this year’s performance and prepare for increased success in FY2018.  Putting in the time and work to create your FY2018 development plan—complete with these core components—is a smart investment that will position your team for success next year and beyond.

By John Holden, Vice President