How to build a strategic plan from scratch

According to Stephen Mally, strategic planning is an imperative when it comes to running any organisation. Here he provides some oversight into developing a fundraising strategic plan.

 

leadership kitty hiltonWe plan for holidays. We plan for the kids’ school year. We also plan many of our workdays. But most not-for-profits in Australia fail to plan for the next three years. In fact, many not-for-profits don’t plan at all.

But as Benjamin Franklin once said, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” Just like any other business or organisation in any other industry, strategic planning is critical to a not-for-profit achieving its mission. And rather than planning reactively in response to significant risks or challenges, the driver for strategic planning in high-success organisations is routine periodic process.

Ideally, as staff and boards engage in this process, they become committed to measurable goals, approving priorities for implementation and revisiting the organisation’s strategies on an ongoing basis.

So, where do we start? Firstly, let’s define what a fundraising strategic plan – or ‘FSP’ – actually is.

An FSP is a strategic guide for a certain timeframe – three years is a good default period. Its goals and objectives should be based on facts and not influenced by personal feelings or interpretations; this often presents a challenge for fundraisers as we’re forced to remove ourselves from the cause and instead focus on things like revenue targets and return on investment.

Many not-for-profits start the FSP process by identifying their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats to fundraising, in what is commonly called a SWOT analysis. Out of this study, an overarching statement or case for support can be built, including top-line content such as an executive summary, overview of the competitive landscape, organisational background/history, business drivers and strategies to mitigate weaknesses and threats.

It’s important not to create your FSP in a vacuum. A key objective of this plan is to ‘win’ the support of colleagues and other stakeholders by involving them in the process from the beginning. Hold workshops, interviews, one-on-one meetings and surveys with relevant people, and keep them engaged via periodic discussions, so that when the organisation’s internal and external environments change, strategic initiatives can be readily and efficiently revisited.

Be systematic in how you structure your FSP. Each section of your plan should follow a pre-determined format, that is, introduction, goal, revenue and investment targets, objective and finally action steps with responsible parties and task owners.

Remember your FSP is a dynamic, evolving document. It is never final and should be expected to change in line with the shifting circumstances of the organisation.

Stephen Mally FFIA CFRE is Director of FundraisingForce and course author and facilitator for Fundraising Institute Australia’s Fundraising Strategic Plan Masterclass. To find out more, visit bit.ly/FIAStrategicPlan.