Never Underestimate the Power of Planning

As many of us who’ve worked in development know, there is never really a downtime when it comes to raising money. And, no matter how successful you were over the past year hitting your goals, it always seems like the celebration is short lived before the conversation turns to what needs to be accomplished next year. When I first started in fundraising almost 30 years ago, a senior advancement officer told me that 90% of fundraising is planning, and the other 10% is working your plan. While that might be a bit of oversimplification, I have found that statement to hold a lot of truth over the years.

A typical development officer faces many demands during the fiscal year. If we take our eye off the ball, we can easily get pulled in various directions and away from our primary objective: raising money. Without having a plan in place that measures our weekly, monthly, and quarterly goals, many of us are just busy being busy.

In our practice when working with clients, I am consistently surprised that many organizations don’t practice even regular LYBNT and SYBNT evaluations. Even some colleges and universities with larger staffs and resources aren’t taking the time to perform critical evaluations. This is particularly frustrating given our industry’s abysmal donor retention rates and overall philanthropy that has never exceeded 2.1% of US GDP. Learn more here.

As summer comes to a close, many of us are getting ready for our busiest fundraising season. Before the madness begins, I urge you to spend some time looking backwards.  Evaluate last year’s goals. What worked and what didn’t? What needs to be completely overhauled? What needs to be refined? I promise that the time spent in reflection will be well worth the effort and put you on a strong path moving forward. I can’t stress enough the importance of data. Let numbers and data help you drive your decision-making process. Don’t fall into the familiar routine of promising to get around to it later. If possible schedule a day where you and your team focus on assessing last year’s effectiveness and begin planning for the year to come.

This past blog on Key Performance Indicators (click here) lists some of the metrics we find most valuable. The time you spend reflecting, analyzing, and planning will make your development operation that much greater.

Author: Timothy M. Winkler, Sr., CFRE, Founder and CEO of the Winkler Group.

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