As I See It | Missy Gale, CFRE | President & CEO

Achieving Donor-Centered Fundraising Requires a Well-Executed Plan 

Entering the final quarter of 2020 means we will soon be looking at the events of the year in the rearview mirror. To many of us, while a painful exercise, it will also be a relief with a note of hope that 2021 will be better. Most of our nonprofit clients saw their best laid plans quickly dissolve, requiring quick action and new approaches to fundraising. Most also found new ways to communicate to their constituencies with varying results in terms of response and outcomes. Expanding on last month’s article about the ability to raise major gifts during a pandemic, this month my focus is on Development Planning as the instrument for engaging donors, organizational leaders and your entire fundraising team at all levels 

Beyond placing your fundraising activities on a calendar and accepting a budgetary goal from your organization, effective development managers know that a Development Plan, tailored to organizational strategy, is the most effective way to raise more money. A Development Plan should run in tandem with your organization’s Strategic Plan over a three or more-year period. Included in the plan are your strategies for acquiring new donors and friends, retaining the ones you have and moving relationships through the donor pyramid and life cycle. No one fundraising tactic can do all of these things effectively. All of them, working together supported by your entire team, are essential to achieving a true donor-centered model. 

A well-thought-out Development Plan can safeguard your organization from disasters and economic downturn. 

Because a true Development Plan spans several years and is layered with a variety of approaches, the organization is safeguarded when one element of the plan fails. Equally, when an element of the plan exceeds expectations, it may lift other elements up giving them more opportunity to succeed.  Several elements contribute to an environment of success including teamwork, creativity and inventiveness coupled with performance measurement and effective reporting. All team members connected to the plan recognize its interdependent design and know the value of everyone’s role. Therefore, should disaster strike, the group can quickly assemble to determine which tactics can continue to perform and which need to be adjusted.

Donors respond best to a well-organized plan with leadership and managers who stand behind it. 

Confidence in a clear, well-articulated mission, vision, values and plans is what drives donors to give and to stay invested. Whether making first-time gift through a social media or direct mail campaign, renewing an annual gift, or providing a major or legacy gift, donors assume you will steward their gift wisely through their encounters with your organization at all levels. That’s why empowerment, training, trust and open communication is essential to a culture of philanthropy. These essential attributes tell your donors that their needs are your collective focus.  

No matter your organization’s fiscal year, there is still time to create your Development Plan for your donor’s year – 2021. If your organization’s Strategic Plan is out of date, I encourage your leadership to tackle updating it immediately. It’s important if you are seeking philanthropic investment. You can infuse strategy into your Development Plan by involving board and executive leadership through visioning exercises. However, a Development Plan that is written by the development manager and team only, unaligned with organizational strategies and goals, is destined for the shelf.  

I’d like to hear about your experience with creating a Development Plan for your nonprofit. You can reach me at  

Does your organization have a comprehensive Development Plan? Development planning is one M. Gale & Associates’ specialties. Whether your Development Plan needs a refresh or an overhaul, we’re here to help.
Read more about our approach to a Development Plan here or contact us today: