April Fools’ Day is not the only time reality can be hard to see clearly. Just ask any nonprofit executive, and you will get an earful of examples.
Smart nonprofits do all they can to prepare themselves, though, and this means taking precious time from service delivery to plan for the future.
Does your organization have a strategic plan? How is it used? When was it last updated? Strategic plans provide a framework for decisions about a variety of key issues and help you focus on what matters most.
In our experience, developing a plan is a critical step to strong fundraising. Savvy donors want not only to know how you will use their funds, but how you will change the world by what you are doing.
Change the world? Yes, indeed. We all want to be part of something larger than ourselves, and your cause could be just the dream for which a valuable donor has been looking. But you have to show this in visionary, mission-focused language that will inspire a higher level response, not talk about balancing the budget.
While it takes time, strategic planning is a great exercise for your board and staff. Talking through the big picture issues from multiple angles will make the whole team better ambassadors for the cause. Be sure to spend some time talking about why you work for/volunteer with/give to the cause – it will help everyone see the organization from a broader perspective and will make them better fundraisers and better donors.
If you have been thinking about creating a plan, updating an existing one, or making a current plan more user-friendly, read on!
Four reasons every organization needs a strategic plan:
1) To be sure the board and the staff are aligned regarding vision and mission
2) To prioritize decisions about allocation of resources for new and existing programs
3) To focus fundraising on the issues and audiences that are of greatest importance to your future
4) To share your big dreams with donors and prospective donors, demonstrating that you have a legitimate path to accomplish your goals