Wednesday, March 30, 2011

BIG’s Blog: What is it That You Do Again?

Last week, I was in Chicago on client work when I ran into Pete Tulipana at Midway Airport. Pete is a long-time professional in the nonprofit sector and had been to the AFP conference in Chicago that week. Pete is the new Executive Director of the Columban Missionary Society’s U.S. Province based in Omaha. When I started my consulting practice, the Columbans were one of my first clients.

Though we have gotten to know each other, Pete did not work with me at the Columbans. As we were sitting in the airport waiting for our flight, Pete asked me, “I know what you did with the Columbans before I arrived, helping us with updating our donor information systems, so in a nutshell, is that what you do for fund raising groups like the Columbans?”

Great question.

I am guessing that the reason Pete asked me that question is that we had just finished a discussion of other work we are doing for fund raising organizations that Pete was familiar with, and he kept hearing me say Strategic Planning over and over. At the Columbans, like every engagement of ours, the client determines the focus of the engagement and that is as it should be.

50% of the time, we begin by developing a new strategic plan and most of the time this is the first strategic plan the fund raising group has ever done.

The remaining 50% of our engagements are focused on issues that the fund raising group is struggling with. They need outside expertise for a limited time to help them work through problems like:
  • launching a charitable gifts division;
  • selecting a new donor management system software;
  • acquiring donor intelligence or analytic tools and services, or
  • reviewing their annuity program
But, whether we start with developing a new strategic plan or start first with focusing on an internal issue, we always come back to the primacy of having a written strategy for every fund raising organization.

While most nonprofit organizations have created strategic plans, for whatever reasons, the fund raising groups within those organizations – for the most part – have never created their own strategic plan. This is a clear problem since fund raising groups within their organizations are a very different category of work from the mission of the organization at large. Simply put, they need their own plan. And, the larger the fund raising group, the more pronounced is the need for a detailed strategic plan.

The fund raising group’s strategic plan becomes the documented roadmap for how they accomplish their goals in raising the revenue that helps the larger organization achieve their overall mission.

As the old saying goes, “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will do.”

Without a written overall strategic fund raising plan with goals, objectives and timelines, then adding personnel, capabilities or even new departments becomes merely a budget exercise without tying it to the context of a larger multi-year plan.

Thanks, Pete, for asking the question!


Welcome to BIG’s Blog and yes, by all means forward our blog to your friends and co-workers.

No comments:

Post a Comment