Big Vision = Big Dollars

Is your ministry vision big enough to capture your donors’ attention? Major donors look for organizations that can make an eternal impact. They desire to fund ministries that are not content with the status quo but those that have a compelling plan to meet a significant need. Why should a major donor consider giving to your ministry? Your answer begins with an agile and comprehensive strategic plan.

Strategic planning is a very broad and often confusing topic. All non-profit organizations need a plan, but less than half have one – or a current one at least. The life cycle of a strategic plan is five years maximum and should be reviewed every three years. Consider these three questions:

1. What is a strategic plan?
2. Why does your organization need a strategic plan? 
3. How can you best leverage this plan for maximum fundraising results?

WHAT IS A STRATEGIC PLAN? Here is a definition: “A strategic plan results from an intensive process in which highly invested stakeholders reach consensus about the future direction of the organization over the next 3-5 years.” A strategic plan usually involves:
Reviewing the organization’s purpose (mission), vision, and core values.
Examining who you serve and/or should be serving in the future.
Analyzing your organizational strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT).
Understanding your “competitive advantage,” what you do better than anyone else.
Establishing a limited number of “strategic goals” or objectives for the next 3-5 years.

Strategic planning is related to, but different than annual and long-range planning. While both are important, they should be driven by your strategic plan.

Annual planning generally happens in conjunction with your fiscal year and focuses on annual needs and operations. It may include items like budgets, projected personnel costs, staff assignments, facility maintenance, programming, and estimated costs of doing business.

Long-range planning generally happens every two to three years and focuses on what new programs you will add and what facility upgrades you need to make to accommodate these programs. It may also involve changes in staffing levels, service statistics, replacement of major equipment, and leadership succession plans.

WHY DOES YOUR NON-PROFIT ORGANIZATION NEED A STRATEGIC PLAN? A strategic plan accomplishes five critical goals.

1. It shows you are serious about your organization’s mission and that it is worth continuing.
2. It builds strong ownership and “buy-in” from stakeholders.
3. It helps you stay focused on what is most important—”doing the right things, the right way.”
4. It prioritizes your funding needs and
5. It provides incentive for donors to support you.

Donors give to your ministry for three reasons:

1. They believe in your mission (why and what you do).
2. They appreciate your vision for the future (as opposed to status quo).
3. They trust your leadership (this comes from relationships).

All three reasons are connected to your strategic plan. 1) Why you are in business, 2) what you want to accomplish, and 3) as a leader, will you do what you say you’re going to do.

People give to vision. A strategic plan helps you frame and present your vision.
Strategic vision provides long-term direction for your organization. What is your BHAG? (big, hairy, audacious goal, or better yet, big, holy, audacious goal). Your vision statement needs to be far reaching, but attainable. Here are two vision statements that may have sounded crazy at the time:

“We will put a man on the moon before the end of the decade and bring him back.” (President John F. Kennedy)

“A computer on every desk and in every home using great software as an empowering tool.” (Microsoft)


Make sure your plan is current; if more than five years old, refresh it, or better yet, start over.
Encourage your board to review and update your plan annually.
Post a short version of your plans on your website to engage your entire constituency.
Tie your annual fundraising goals/needs to your strategic plan initiatives.
Take a copy with you to every donor cultivation meeting.
Personalize the ask; if an initiative or goal in your strategic plan aligns with the donor’s interest area or “hits a hot button,” emphasize how their gift will accomplish that key strategic planning goal.
Highlight your annual progress. Use a checklist or colorful graphic. Show what you have accomplished!
Include your strategic plan, along with an update on progress, with every corporate or foundation proposal you submit. Smart foundations will request it.
Rethink your strategic plan every five years. It gets stale setting on the shelf.

A good, current, and compelling strategic plan will greatly enhance your fundraising efforts. Please contact us at The Timothy Group if you need help creating big vision that will attract big dollars!

Author: Kent Vanderwood, Vice President

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