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Do Foundations Really Care If Nonprofits Have Written Fundraising Plans?

October 24, 2014

I can’t speak for all foundations, but here at the Community Foundation of Sarasota County, we do care if nonprofits have written fundraising plans.

Why? A written fundraising plan helps us feel assured that the generous donors who have entrusted us with their philanthropic dreams are not your organization’s only plan. A thoughtful document outlining diversified revenue sources shows that your leadership has a unified game plan for your programs and services to thrive. All of your team members–board and staff–can work from a common understanding about your fundraising goals, specific strategies for achieving these goals, and who is responsible for key milestones.

Today we concluded the classroom portion of a 4-part fund development plan series developed and facilitated by John Elbare, a fundraising consultant and seasoned expert in the field.

Five organizations serving our community–Big Cat Habitat Gulfcoast Sanctuary, Laurel Civic Association, Volunteer Community Connections, Visible Men Academy, and Sarasota Military Academy–committed teams of board and staff members to participate, developing meaningful plans together through trainings, peer-to-peer discussions, individual work and consulting support.  The organizations will review and discuss these plans at their upcoming board meetings with the support of the consultant.

Here are a few elements of good fundraising plans:

  • Fundraising goals with dollar amounts and specific strategies to achieve them, often focused on a 12-18 month time period
  • Milestone dates and responsible parties that clarify when goals should be met and by whom
  • Inclusion of board and staff roles
  • Diverse funding streams considering individual donors (annual giving, major gifts, planned giving), corporate support, foundation support, earned revenue, and in some cases, special events
  • Reference to adopted fundraising policies (or plans to create them, review them or revise them)

What a fundraising plan is NOT:

  • A list of special events
  • An “evergreen” document with general descriptions of funding sources
  • An organizational budget

Less than one-third of all nonprofits with profiles in The Giving Partner have written fundraising plans.

Developing a useful document does not have to be a laborious or complicated project. And if you’re an all-volunteer organization, you’re not off the hook–the document is just as important for you. Consider the impact of getting everyone on the same page about what you need to raise and how you are going to do it. The usefulness of such a plan is truly immeasurable.

In addition to the Community Foundation of Sarasota County, other foundations in our area including The Patterson Foundation and Gulf Coast Community Foundation commit time and dollars to capacity building efforts to move the needle for impact. Endless resources exist online. And supportive networks of nonprofit colleagues are accessible through the Southwest Florida Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals and other groups.

Kudos to the organizations energizing their teams with unified and thoughtful approaches to fundraising!

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