So, last week, I took a little unexpected vacation from this blog. I’ve been posting weekly without fail since the pandemic began (and producing my weekly e-newsletter consistently) and last week we had some shifts in our household that needed my attention more. Thanks for your patience as I took a bit of time to recalibrate.
What’s on my mind this week? Strategic planning in uncertain times.
I’m going to be offering a webinar for Community Funded next week on this topic and it is something I’ve long passionately advocated for non-profits to do. All too often, we plan as if the sky is always blue and we will encounter no difficulties in our implementation. SWOT analysis attempts to break us out of this kind of thinking by getting us to at least give a passing thought for weaknesses, obstacles, and threats. However, those rarely get incorporated into the final plan. Every single region of the United States is prone to some type of natural disaster, which are not a matter of if but when, and yet very few non-profits take those into account in their annual or longer-term planning.
The pandemic has caused such huge societal shifts that we can no longer ignore the impact of global and macro-level changes outside of our control. How can we plan for even a year when we don’t know what the next few weeks or months will hold?
Here’s a little preview of the top three things I feel fundraisers should do in their planning during times of uncertainty:
If you have a defeatist mindset, no amount of planning can help you. If you are so overwhelmed that even the thought of planning and setting a goal terrifies you, there is not much further you can go. Remember: if your mission was important before the pandemic, it is still important. If you had funding needs before the pandemic, you probably have more needs now. Take heart that your loyal donors understand these needs (assuming you are communicating them to donors), and you can surmount the challenges this year will bring.
Build Conservative Projections
Goals and projections are not the same. You can read my post on that here. This year, you need to build projections from the bottom up. What gifts can you count on? From there, what can you reasonably plan to raise through various methods? Build it up from what you know for sure, to what is likely and then to what you might raise through creative (untested) methods. Keep it very conservative. Under-promise and then over-perform.
Leave Room for Innovation
Don’t over-plan. This year may have more obstacles and surprises in store. You need to leave some room (both in terms of your time and your budget) to be nimble and take advantage of opportunities to innovate. If you have over-scheduled your year in a desperate attempt to reach unreasonable goals, you will not have any energy or bandwidth to try new things. And what this new environment calls for is smart creativity and innovation.
Do you have your fundraising plan in place for next year? Are you struggling with how to put that plan together? What's your biggest question about planning in this environment? It would help me plan my presentation to know what you're thinking. Let me know in the comments.
Comments and questions are, as always, welcomed and encouraged!
PS – If you liked this post, you might also like these:
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Jessica Cloud, CFRE
I've been called the Tasmanian Devil of fundraising and I'm here to talk shop with you.