Foundation for Optimum Fundraising: The Development Plan

Mapping out your future is a must if you ever really want to fundraise at an optimum level. Fundraising is pure strategy…The good news is that it is not really that complicated to develop solid fundraising strategies.

We’ve all heard the saying, “those who fail to plan, plan to fail.” Well…It’s true.

I am huge on structures and frameworks to help guide you through processes so goals and objectives can be attained. I think without some type of organization in your attempt to be more impactful with your mission, you may be successful, but never at a truly optimum level. Therefore, I believe one of the keys to successful fundraising is tailoring a development plan to guide your organization throughout the year.

A good development plan can move an organization that puts out fires and moves from one crisis to the next to creating a positive, flowing work plan in which all participants have the opportunity to do their best, be their best and achieve the best.

Below are some sample key strategies for a development plan. Do these apply to your organization? Are there other strategies you feel are important for you and your team? Think about what strategies will be implemented through your own development plan.

  • Create a culture of fundraising.

  • Further develop fundraising infrastructure.

  • Increase visibility and “case for support” to the community.

  • Increase donations from individual donors

  • Cultivate friends and nurture donor relations through special events.

The development plan does not have to be a complex piece of work. It just needs to answer a few questions to assist organizations in delineating priorities and focusing on the future.

  • How much money do we need to raise?

  • Who will be our donors?

  • What techniques and activities will we use to approach them?

  • When will we do it?

  • What’s everyone’s role and responsibility in this?


When trying to determine your goal, you want to remember some key principles to ensure effectiveness and relevance…Think SMART.

These goals must be:

  • S –Specific

  • M – Measurable

  • A – Attainable/Ambitious

  • R – Relevant

  • T – Time-Based

For more detail on SMART goals, click HERE.

After creating SMART goals, you should then be able to answer this about your goals…How much money will it take to do everything we want/need to do?

Potential Sources

Once a goal(s) is established, we will need to determine who the money is going to come from and what level of giving you believe they could support. Sources will include the following categories of donors:

  • Foundations (Grants)

  • Individuals

  • Businesses/Corporation

Giving levels can include:

  • Major: Donors who have the capacity to give a substantial amount of money (substantial being defined by you and your organization.) Some organizations are accustomed to very large gifts and other organizations are not.

  • Mid: Donors who have the capacity to give a significant amount, but it isn’t on the high end or low.

  • Lower: Donors who have the capacity to give smaller gifts. (Again this is your definition. Remember fundraising is not one size fits all.)

  • Monthly Giver: Donors who may or may not have the capacity to give large, lump sum gifts, but who would rather support your organization through smaller, incremental gifts on a regular basis.

  • Legacy (Bequest): Those who have the capacity and who are planning to leave a legacy at some point.

Organizational leaders should all work to develop a Prospect List with names of individuals and businesses who are valid prospects to approach for support. Also, include what capacity, or level of giving, you believe they could contribute. You can choose multiple levels, or if you think of a different giving level, you can include that. Click HERE for a fill-able Prospect List for individual and businesses.

Techniques and Activities

Once you have determined who may support your organization and what giving level they are at, it’s time to determine what techniques and activities can be used to reach the different levels of givers. Techniques are categorized based on where they stand on the spectrum of visibility and fundraising. For example, some techniques have a high fundraising potential but low visibility, they are quiet per se, while others have high visibility with low prospect of fundraising. Both visibility and fundraising are important and needed for effective donor development. However, organizations need to be strategic in the way they approach these activities with various levels of givers.

Below are the technique categories beginning with high fundraising/low visibility and progressing in order to high visibility/low fundraising:

  • Personal/Close Interaction:

  • Examples: face to face meetings, coffee, one on one interaction, individual home tours

  • Small Social

  • Examples: House parties, dinner parties, limited seating events, small venue events where RSVP is required, group home tours

  • Affinity

  • Mailers, newsletters, phone calls, memberships

  • Large Social

  • Large events with no RSVP required, participation in community functions

  • Broadcasting

  • Speaking Engagements, advertisements, social media

Leadership should strategize and determine the different techniques that will be most effective to be introduced to and build relationships with donors at all levels. Multiple techniques can be used for the different level of givers…It is also important to identify and plan the activities for each technique you plan to use. For a sample Technique List, click HERE.


Obviously the next step is to determine when you will be implementing the techniques and activities discussed above. HERE is a sample calendar for you to use.

Your Role

Boards and committees play many different roles when it comes to fundraising…This is the last, and most crucial, part of creating a development plan.

Your Development Plan is a huge piece to the success of your organization, but is just one element you must learn to create right now. As you are creating your development plan, keep in mind why your organization started and focus on your mission. It can be really easy to get distracted, but as long as you maintain focus on why your organization exists, then you can really achieve anything.

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