The Five W’s of Development Planning

Jul 29, 2021 | All Posts, Fundraising Counsel, Highlights from the Latest Newsletter, Strategic Planning

By Elizabeth Hopkins, Brooke Jenkins, and Lizzy Mottern.

The summer months are a good time to refresh and renew our enthusiasm for the important work we do – and to create a Development Plan for the year ahead. The Five W’s of Development Planning will help you focus on the important elements of your plan.

  1. Why Plan? A plan provides common understanding of what is being done, who is doing it, and by when. Development plans:
  • Secure resources for your organization
  • Keep donors connected, informed, and feeling appreciated
  • Ensure the development team works efficiently and effectively.
  1. When to Plan? For many organizations, the summer marks the end of one fiscal year and the beginning of another, making this an ideal time to assess what worked well last year and plan for the year ahead. Start early and give yourself time to schedule a meaningful planning process, gather stakeholder input, and analyze your data.
  2. Who Plans? The development staff takes the lead, but all internal and external stakeholders can help in meaningful ways. Throughout the year, invite input from the Development Committee, Board, CEO/ED, staff across the organization, donors, and other volunteers, so they will feel buy-in and help you execute the plan. 
  3. Where to Plan? A change of scenery helps give us all fresh perspectives and makes your team feel special. We’ve done planning offsite – at the beach, a retreat center, or a volunteer’s property, often at no expense to the organization. Even if you have to meet onsite or virtually, make it fun with dress-down attire and activities that build camaraderie. 
  4. What is a Plan? A Development Plan should always be rooted in the organization’s Strategic Plan, including the vision, mission, and core values. We recommend the following key elements be included in your plan:
    • Introduction & Executive Summary – set the stage for readers to understand and help implement the plan
    • Data Review & Analysis – use donor and prospect data to set goals and look for areas of opportunity
    • Goals & Strategies – define what you are aspiring to achieve and by what approaches, within these program areas: Annual Giving, Major/Capital Giving, and Planned Giving
    • Action Steps –document activities within each strategy, assigned to specific staff and/or volunteers, with deadlines, and identified resources needed
    • Performance Metrics – create quantitative and qualitative measures of success for each action step.

As you work on your Development Plan, we recommend you also keep the following in mind:

  • What did the pandemic teach us?
  • How will your communications support this plan?
  • How are you staying connected and showing appreciation to your donors and volunteers?
  • Are you considering diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility in your teams and strategies to most effectively meet your mission?

We enjoyed delivering an interactive session about the Five W’s (and more) in a recent AFP Triangle Skills Workshop “I Thought I Had A Plan,” presented with moss+ross partner Mary Moss. Please let us know if moss+ross can help you hone your development plan.