Places In Progress


10 Steps To Kickstart Development at Your Organization


Designing a development plan for an entire organization can seem like a daunting task. Don’t get me wrong, it is, but if there is anything that my experience in project management has taught me, it’s that anything is possible if you take it one step at a time. That said, here is a step-by-step guide on how to kickstart development at your organization.


1. Think B.I.G.

Establish a clear vision for the organization; one that is Bold and Innovative, but Granular, too. What specific goals do you have for the organization and what financial resources are necessary to achieve those goals?

2. Think S.M.A.R.T.

Goals should be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely. Planning six months at a time is often the best way to keep yourself on track.

3. Create a Case for Support that is compelling and unique.

Why should investors (yes, investors, not donors) choose you and not the other guy? You should have clear evidence to support what you do, why you do it and why anyone else should care.

4. Have an answer to the silent question of “What’s in it for me?”

A charitable giving portfolio should look no different than an investment portfolio. Show your investors what their ROI is and the societal costs of a world without your services.

5. Emphasize mid-level giving.

Major gifts are great and important for big ticket campaign items, but the real money is in the middle. By effectively engaging mid-level investors (typically in the $1,000-$10,000 range), organizations will be better off in the long-run.

6. Stewardship should be thoughtful and regimented.

Donor retention for your average nonprofit lies around 25 percent. Too often organizations front-load their cultivation to close on a gift, large or small, and return only to ask for more money again next year. Stewardship is all about managing relationships in the interim. How can you continue to tell a compelling story that encourages repeat giving and possibly even elevates that investor's giving potential?

7. Establish a sense of exclusivity for your biggest investors.

Everyone wants to feel like they have the "inside scoop." Identify one or several giving levels and create a respective affinity group. Each level should incentivize the level below to make that jump and gain further access to your organization. Start with a single level for your biggest donors, providing them with unique and personalized content and events.

8. Bridge the gap between your investors and your clients.

Sometimes the answer to that inevitable question of "What's in it for me?" is as simple as knowing that you've made an impact on someone else's life. This can be as simple as a quarterly Gratitude Report to highlight client success stories. For even more of a personal touch, schedule the occasional phone-banking event where clients call your investors to say thank you. Don't use clients to guilt trip your investors into donating, just say thank you. The ask comes later.

9. Centralize your development activity (if possible).

Oftentimes it can be difficult for nonprofits without dedicated development staff to maintain a robust, central database for fundraising. When possible, organizations should make room in the budget for a development officer or consultant. This is one investment that will pay for itself 10 times over.

10. Connect with us at Places In Progress for hands-on technical assistance in fund development.

In addition to project management services and public safety trainings, our firm provides support services for those organizations looking to build a development plan from the ground up.

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