I started fundraising consulting after almost 15 years as an in-house fundraiser in organizations both large and small. I knew I wanted to work with small charities and felt that I could meaningfully help them raise more money for their important work.
I started to learn about the consulting business and quite frankly, what I learned shocked me. In a recent, but since removed article by renowned and respected fundraising guru Jerold Panas perfectly sums it up: “You must be a fundraising consultant,” says the balloonist.“I am,” replies the man. “How did you know?” “Well,” says the balloonist, “everything you have told me is technically correct— but of absolutely no practical value, because I have no idea what to make of your information and so I am still lost.”
This. This is what I saw time and time again.
Small organizations squirrelling away enough money to pay large amounts to amazing consultants (and yes, they are good at what they do), to develop a 3-5 year fundraising strategy that has absolutely no practical value. I'd start working with a client and they'd proudly show me the thorough fundraising strategy that was developed 3 years ago. What had been done to advance that strategy since then?
This is not a one-time occurrence my friend. No, I have seen this in countless organizations. And it's driving me crazy!
How are we, as consultants, okay with this?
I, for one, am not. So, with my amazing team at The Good Partnership, we decided to change it. Which is why we focus on fundraising plans, not strategies.
What's the difference between a fundraising strategy and plan and why does it even matter?
Small organizations (especially ones without fundraising staff - which is who we typically work with) are not positioned to implement fundraising strategies.
Strategies are too broad, too vague and have no specific deliverables. Yes, we all want to build a culture of philanthropy. We all want to build diverse revenue. You don't need to pay a consultant tens of thousands of dollars to tell you that.
Instead, we encourage small organizations to let us develop a fundraising plan for them (or you can do it yourself with our free fundraising plan template and instructional videos). Plans cover about 12 months of action. Month by month they outline deliverables and milestones that directly feed into your annual goals.
They are specific and give you tools to stay on-track with your work. Wether your fundraising is done by fundraising staff, the ED, the board or other volunteers, a plan keeps everyone on the same page and defines success with a map on how to achieve it.
So, instead of worrying about that strategy document that sits in an email somewhere, untouched for years, take action and get your fundraising plan working for you. Start where you are today and you'll build up a predictable fundraising program that grows.