“You’ve got to be very careful if you don’t know where you are going, because you might not get there.”   - Yogi Berra

If you’re like most people, you like to take action. Figure things out as you go. Get started as quickly as you can. But you’re not normal. You are a leader of a purpose-driven organization, with a vision for your organization. And your organization and the people inside need a plan to achieve that vision. And that plan may be the catalyst to achieving your fundraising goals to help you to realize that vision.

There are many ways you can capture your plan, i.e. back of the envelope to-do lists for the day, collaborative software to track project tasks like Trello and Asana, post-its on the team room wall, balanced scorecards for each department, a 100-slide deck to guide your next 5 years. The method is not as important as the utility and benefits derived from the planning process. It’s more important to know which plan is best to use for the space your organization is in today. Check out our post on strategic plans vs implementation plans vs action sprints coming soon!

Not all plans are strategic plans. A strategic plan is a forward-looking plan that establishes where the organization wants to be in three or more years. It captures strategic priorities to achieve the organization’s vision. It is more than a vision board for the organization but a consideration of your organization’s external context, internal strengths and weaknesses, and metrics for your desired outcomes. The priorities and goals included should be aspirational and ambitious yet feasible with the resources and capabilities of your organization today.

While it’s similar to a business plan, there are differences and your organization should have both. Whereas the business plan focuses more on the who/what/where for the services provided to your organization’s audience and makes the case for your organization’s competitive advantage to provide these services, the strategic plan focuses more on the why and the how these services will be delivered. 

Primary benefits of strategic planning:

  1. Your strategic plan serves as a guiding light or North Star for all major decisions by
    • Unifying the board and staff to work towards the same goals
    • Identifying those responsible for carrying out specific tasks and establishes a time frame for milestones
  2. Your strategic plan pushes leaders to pause and think of the world as it should be and not just how it is, which
    • Helps the organization to anticipate and manage change
    • Provides the opportunity to analyze the organization’s processes
  3. Your strategic plan provides the opportunity for the board, staff, and volunteers to recommit to your cause by
    • Reinforcing who you are and what you do
    • Identifying existing strengths in the organization
    • Helping to orient new staff, board members, and volunteers on your organization’s history and vision

Another critical benefit of strategic planning is its ability to support fundraising requests. Having a clear but thorough strategic plan could make the difference between an organization struggling to sustain and one that finds success in fundraising. Today’s donors–whether individuals, corporations, or foundations–want to ensure that their dollars will have an impact on the mission and causes they believe in. That means supporting organizations with goals and objectives that are easy to understand and measure.

The strategic plan should be created before your fundraising campaign because no matter how much money you raise, the benchmarks of your organization’s success will be determined by the goals that you achieved with that funding. In a world where well-meaning organizations have to compete for the support from the same audiences, don’t miss out on significant funding because you didn’t take the time to plan.

The strategic planning process can take months, on top of the day-to-day activities of the organization. Though a worthwhile activity, organizations should consider investing in a strategic planning consultant to objectively facilitate the process. Schedule a free 30-minute consultation with us to learn more about our strategic planning process!