A Case for the Fundamentals

About a year ago, I was complaining to my dad that my shoe laces kept coming untied. He told me, as unpatronizingly as possible, that it was because I wasn’t tying them right. You heard me, I wasn’t tying them right…

This got me thinking, how did this happen?shoe laces Did I learn incorrectly? Or, was I taught correctly and over the years my technique got sloppy? Did I start taking shortcuts? Whatever it was, something I considered to be so fundamental and automatic, I was doing wrong, and it was causing me a great deal of irritation.

How many other things is this true for, particularly when we think about the way we run our fund development operations. There are basics that we all learn at some point. These elements seem so fundamental that it almost seems silly asking about them, but over the years, I have seen a number of organizations that don’t have these things in place.
I know that we all want to talk about the latest trends and emerging strategies, but I’ve decided, in this post, to channel your middle school Phys Ed teacher and focus on the fundamentals.

I get it, it feels like a lot of work to stop what you’re doing and work on these things. Your days are busy, your to-do list is long enough. But how much time are you wasting by not having these fundamentals in place? How many missteps are you making? How can you know that you’re optimizing your return on investment or prioritizing your activities effectively? How much time did I waste stopping to retie my shoes? And, who knows what might have tripped me up while they were untied.

So, to help make sure you’re on track for success, here are five key fundamentals to make sure you have in place. Hopefully, you’ll be able to check off each item with confidence, but if you’re missing any of these elements or they are in need of updating, I encourage you to make their development a priority:

  • Vision for the Future: Your big, bold vision expresses what will be different in the world because your organization exists. Everyone in your organization should be able to articulate and share it with passion and conviction. Without a compelling vision you lack the inspiration required to motivate your investors to make transformational gifts.
  • Long-Range Strategic Plan: This plan maps out the next three to five years and how you will achieve your big, bold vision. Every organizations has things they would like to change, in their operations, systems and culture. But, change doesn’t happen just because we want it to, it happens through being intentional and strategic in our actions and your long-range strategic plan ensures that.
  • Annual Fund Development Plan: Your annual operating plan includes specific, actionable goals and objectives with clearly defined roles and deadlines. A strong plan is as critical to guiding your organization in focusing on the most critical strategies as it is in helping to inform decisions about what you won’t do. Make sure that once the plan has been developed you implement strategies for continually checking on progress and make course corrections.
  • Table of Gifts: Probably the key fundamental that is missing the most from development shops, the table of gifts is a powerful management tool. Imagine always knowing exactly how much you have raised to date, how much remains to goal, which gifts have been closed and how many new prospects need to be identified. Now, stop imagining and go put together your table of gifts.
  • Case for Support: Can everyone in your organization – staff, board members, volunteers – effectively convey your organization’s case? Your case for support is a single document that contains information on who you are, why you exist, what you’re trying to accomplish and why a donor should care. A strong, well-written case for support provides the foundation for all of your donor materials and marketing collateral and provides consistency and effectiveness in your messaging.

These elements might not be flashy, they aren’t built on the latest technologies and they aren’t trending on Twitter. However, they are guaranteed to have a significant impact on your development success. So, don’t put them off any further, because otherwise you may end up looking as foolish as, say an adult that doesn’t know how to tie their shoes properly.

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  1. Pingback: Fund Development Plan: Your Key to Success - The Osborne Group Blog

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