Last week we conducted two different workshops for board members from two distinctly different organizations on different sides of the country. One was a board comprised of medical professionals, the other was a University foundation board with diverse membership. One has an annual fundraising goal of less than $500,000 and the other has a $4.2 million goal. Yet the results of both workshops were the same. Board members ended each meeting agreeing to “update our strategic plan.”
The purpose of these workshops was not strategic planning. These were workshops designed to educate and engage board members about their responsibility for fundraising and their accountability to each other. During each workshop we reviewed the prerequisites for fundraising success that we have identified through our years of working with diverse organizations. Both boards focused on prerequisite number five “A compelling case for financial support that ties back to the strategic plan.”
The case for support is what people communicate to potential donors about the impact of their organization and the reasons for supporting its work. But these need to be connected to a strategic plan. If, for example, your organization’s strategic plan calls for increasing access to health care by 15% for children within a specific geographic area, then your fundraising should be organized around asking people, businesses and foundations to support you in this effort. If, instead, you are raising money to extend services to newly unemployed adults then your fundraising is not tied to your strategic plan.
There are plenty of good reasons why healthcare should be extended to the unemployed. The only problem is that this is not the identified focus of the organization. Taking the time to review, and as necessary, revise your organization’s strategic plan helps make sure that your activities and the use of your resources are in line with your strategic plan.
Many donors, particularly those who give larger sums of money, pay close attention to the congruence between fundraising and your strategic plan. We believe it is simply a good business practice.
So, maybe we shouldn’t have been surprised that both organizations decided to begin their work with a focus on strategic planning. This doesn’t have to be a difficult and time consuming task. At its best strategic planning focuses an organization’s energy, resources, activities, public relations and fundraising. Working from a current strategic plan helps everyone determine how to best use limited resources.
– Mel and Pearl Shaw!