6 Mistakes to Avoid When Creating a Development Plan

Updated: Jul 9

Let me start by saying that I don’t think there are a ton of mistakes you can make with a development plan.

At its essence, it is an internal planning document, and it should be designed and written for your organization and your needs. Which means that as long as what you put on paper works for you and your organization, however that’s formatted, whichever sections that includes, however you think about your fundraising, then it’s a development plan.

That said, there are 6 big mistakes to avoid when creating your development plan.

1. Not having or finishing your plan.

Adrian Sargeant did some wonderful research and discovered that by simply having a development plan, nonprofits raised more money.

That’s right! The mere existence of a plan made for better fundraising.

Now, a development plan is not a small document. It takes a lot of work and a lot of mental energy to produce, and it can feel overwhelming.

But not starting or not finishing the plan is the biggest mistake you can make. If you never take the time or give yourself the space to think critically about your organization’s fundraising program, you’ll never grow.

2. Not using data analysis as the foundation of your plan.

Your boss or your board is asking for your fundraising plan, and they want it last Thursday.

The easiest thing to do is to throw onto paper the day-to-day tasks that keep your fundraising program chugging along. The status quo. A description of what your fundraising program is and does.

That isn't a development plan. A development plan is a strategy document. It exists to help you think critically about what’s working, what isn’t, and what you should do differently moving forward (and then analyze to see if it worked).

In order to create a strategy document, you need to understand the fundraising you’ve been doing to date. And you learn about that through your data.

Your data tell you so many stories about your donors, your revenue efforts, the effectiveness of your solicitations, what mediums you should be focusing on….

In other words, your data tells your fundraising story.

It just doesn’t scream your story from the rooftops. You have to do a little digging to pull it out.

As you well know, data can be interpreted in many different ways. And since every organization does its fundraising differently, keeping an open and curious mind when you start looking at data trends can help you figure out what’s really going on in there.

But what you do with that data…. That’s the fun part. You get to figure out the story from your data, but the solution for how to do it better is all creative problem solving on your end.