Posted , by . Topic: Campaigns & Campaign Planning, Fundraising, Nonprofit Management.

A Strategic Plan is Not a Development Plan.
Your Development Plan is the Next Step 

Has your organization recently updated its strategic plan or is about to begin that process? If the answer is yes, that is great news! Thinking about your short- and long-term organizational goals and strategies to achieve them is integral to the well-being of any healthy nonprofit.

At The Curtis Group, we advise our clients that including specific fundraising objectives in your strategic plan is a must.

However, far too often, we find that many nonprofits stop short of creating a development plan to help them achieve the fundraising goals identified in that planning process.

A development plan is essentially the strategic plan for your fundraising program. Below you will find tips for creating a strong and effective plan as well as some common pitfalls to avoid.

The Plan

  • Is a deep dive into your organization’s fundraising goals and projected outcomes
  • Allows you to set clearly defined fundraising targets and track your progress
  • Serves as a fundraising roadmap for board and staff
  • Ensures consistency during times of transition within your organization
  • Includes clear actionable steps and assigns responsibility and deadlines

 Who Should Create the Plan?

We recommend to our clients that both staff and board play a role in this process. Allowing your board to assist in crafting the plan and setting clear expectations for their participation in its execution will help create a sense of ownership and increase their engagement in fundraising activities.


To do so, start with a committee planning session that includes both board members and staff. If you already have a development or fundraising committee, this activity is a natural fit. At the planning session, review your organization’s current fundraising program and determine your needs for programming, operations, capital and endowment. Looking back at past budgets and your strategic plan is a good place to start. After the planning session, staff will compile their notes and produce the plan that should include concrete goals as well as strategies and tactics to achieve them. Once the plan is completed, it should be presented to the board.

What Should You Consider As You Set Your Goals?

  • Consider every aspect of your department including annual fund, membership, donor retention, special projects,  fundraising events, planned gifts, major gifts and board involvement.
  • Look deep at key donor data points such as trends in donor retention and stewardship, number of donors at each gift level, and corporate, foundation and individual giving totals.
  • Structure each goal within a set timeframe with defined metrics
  • Who are the right people to execute the action items?
  • How will you track progress and maintain accountability?

Make Sure You Are Thinking Strategically

You want to do more than just fill a hole in your budget or simply increase last year’s dollars raised.

Employing tailored strategies for executing each goal is imperative. Intuitively, we know the strategies and tactics needed to increase a major gift donor’s engagement is going to be different from the level of outreach needed for a lower level donor. Include appropriate strategies for every donor level.

  • Consider producing a gift table to clearly illustrate the number of donors needed at each level to reach  your goal.
We recommend that clients include cultivation and stewardship components to their plan, because we know that is what leads to improved fundraising results.
  • Consider how you can use or create these opportunities to engage your donors are a part of your development plan.  And be creative! Donors want to feel appreciated, have a relationship with your organization and know the impact of their gift.
For the plan to be effective, it needs to be reviewed by staff and board periodically throughout the year.
  • Consider revisiting the plan at your board meetings quarterly to track progress. This will help keep the board engaged and hold everyone accountable. Include last fiscal year’s results in your plan as a benchmark. The plan can be a working document that can be updated throughout the year. And, when you write next year’s plan, your current plan can be used as a starting point.

What Are Some of the Common Pitfalls You Want to Avoid? 

  • No concrete goals
  • Choosing the wrong leadership to implement the plan
  • Unrealistic expectations
  • Trying to do too much at one time
  • No one values the planning process
  • Staff does not involve the board
  • Avoiding the process altogether

Now that you have a better understanding of what your development plan needs to be successful and some helpful strategies to get started, we wish you happy planning! 

Subscribe to our Newsletter

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *