Many times, when you start creating strategic donor plans, you realize there are critical pieces of information missing that would help you know what goal to set and plan to make but you know that conversation won’t be able to happen immediately. Yikes. You know you need to move forward with planning but feel stuck.

Before we dive in to how you can move forward with a goal and strategic donor plan, knowing there are things you need to find out first, let’s take a moment and remember why we plan. This is especially important if you aren’t naturally a planner! But it really has so many benefits in how you manage your fundraising program. Here are just a few:
  • Planning helps you step back and assess where we are in relationships with, what we know about, and what is happening with each donor relationship and giving. That gives you context for your next steps with that donor.
  • To be creative we need some space and time. Having a plan in place already helps you have time to creatively and meaningfully tune into what needs to happen next with each donor to build a more authentic partnership.
  • With a clear plan for every donor, you are also feel good about going to work every day because you have your arms around how to best serve your donors and build meaningful connections. I know when I was a fundraiser and I didn’t create individual plans, a lot of follow up on impact or creative connections with donors fell through the cracks. It was embarrassing and not honoring to the donor. Having a goal and plan changed that.
  • Lastly, without a specific goal and plan you will get more of the same and limit your growth potential. Donors will not give more and may even stop giving entirely. But with a goal, plan and accountability, you are regularly showing the donor the impact they’re making, which helps you retain that donor and meet the needs of your mission.

Now that you are ready to set some goals and plans let’s dig into some roadblocks, what might come up for you that gets in the way, what we would set as a goal and give you language to communicate your plan with each donor.

Example 1: Timothy is one of your long term (10 years+) membership program donors and gives the same gift every year. He runs his own law firm and you know he has more potential. When you talked to him about his passions and interests, you learned that he had a tough childhood and cares a lot about kids. You’re thinking you really should ask Timothy for a specific amount and increase his giving this next year, but aren’t sure how to get started.
  • Possible Roadblocks:
    • I’ve never asked Timothy for an actual gift amount and it would feel weird to do so out of the blue.
    • What if he gets mad and goes away, getting his $5K at least is a guarantee?
    • I think he might be interested in our playground equipment needs but I’m not sure.
  • Detour:
    • What to Remember: I can better serve Timothy by simply checking in about his interest in the playground needs and giving more. As his partner, it’s my job to match opportunities that would be meaningful to him.
    • Permission-based language to help you learn what he wants:
      • Connect to Interest: Timothy, you’ve been such a committed giver in our membership program and have donated $50K over the last 10 years! It meant a lot to me when you shared about your childhood and how you had to stay in doors all the time because your neighborhood wasn’t very safe. We have a project to update the playground at our local shelter for the kids who are living there. Would you be interested in learning more about that project? Would you mind if I sent over the plans and pictures of what we want to accomplish?
  • Goal: Now that you have a reminder of your role and some language, set his goal for $15K for next year.
  • Plan: Create your communication plan to connect with him about his interest in the playground, have touch points that educate him about the opportunity, check back in about discussing the opportunity, and set up the ask.
Example 2: Briana’s giving has been all over the place with one large gift of $50K three years ago, and then $5K and $10K the past two years. You don’t know what she gave the $50K to, but know she has incredible potential. You also don’t know her passion and interests, except that she has giving mostly to land preservation.
  • Roadblocks:
    • I have met with Briana a number of times over the years and I’m embarrassed that I never asked why she gave that one big gift or what she really is passionate about. It feels rude to ask now.
    • I also know she has a lot of potential but don’t know exactly how much. How do I decide a goal and plan for next year?
  • Detour:
    • What to Remember: I can better serve Briana by starting now to learn about her interests and history with us. My role is to find out more and see how I can be a better partner for her moving forward.
    • Permission-based language to help you learn more about her history and interests:
      • Learn more history: Briana, three years ago you gave a generous gift of $50K to our general fund. Would you mind sharing more about what inspired you to make that gift? What where you wanting to accomplish with that gift? How did we do in sharing that impact with you?
      • Connect to interest: Briana, you have been supporting us for eight years now and you and I have been talking for four. I was thinking about how much I appreciate your support and also that I have failed to really ask and learn more about your history with us and reasons behind your interest in our work. Would you be open to me asking some questions so that I can be a better partner for you and our organization?
  • Goal: You had to set the goal in January before you got to have the conversations about her interests so if she gave $50K, $5K and 10K in the past three years, you may set a goal for $25K. Don’t forget to also set a stretch goal (a goal just for you, not a finance goal) to remind you of where you’re wanting to go!
  • Plan: Your plan then begins with learning more about her history and reason for giving $50K and passions and interests. Add touch points that you can adapt as you learn more.
Example 3: Suzy has been increasing her giving each year from $35K, to $50K, then $60K last year, but she mentioned to you a while back that her company has been struggling. She particularly loves your program that exposes kids to jazz.
  • Roadblock:
    • I shouldn’t ask her for a gift when she is having a hard time. Maybe I should ask at all or ask less this year.
    • I’m not sure what goal to set at all.
  • Detour:
    • What to remember: First, recognize that you’re making up a story in your head. You have no idea what her company struggling really means or if that will impact her giving. You don’t want to make assumptions until you ask.
    • Permission-based language to help you learn more:
      • Clarify the Situation: Suzy, I want to thank you for your past years of giving. Do you know that you have so generously giving us $270K over the past number of years?! You mentioned a while back that things at the company were challenging right now, and I want you to know that we care about you and we appreciate you as a long term partner, so I want to learn more about how to support you at this time. I don’t want to make any assumptions. We typically share the top three needs with you every year, what is going to work for you this year?(Let’s say Suzy shared she has to give $20K less this year. Here’s how you can end the conversation.) I’d love to share a story about the impact you are making, would that be okay? You have and are making such a big difference!
  • Goal: Not knowing yet what the reality is you could choose to keep your goal the same at $60K. The great thing about setting individual goals is that, if later, when you learn that she will be giving $20K less, you can look at the rest of your caseload and see where you might have some other goals that could increase make up that difference.
  • Plan: Your plan is to start by finding out how she is doing and where things stand; making sure that you are celebrating and appreciating where ever she is. Then, you make your plans to share the impact of her giving and keep her in connection with the need.

When you put the effort in to create strategic donor plans to identify and serve your donor’s interests and passions, you won’t have to do as much guessing and building in future years. Then, next year you can create a plan to really build deeper relationships and dive deeper into those potential transformational giver opportunities.

But for now, don’t get stuck and avoid making individual plans and goals because you don’t have enough information. If you don’t do this now, you’ll be in exactly the same spot next year!

When you put in the work, even though it can be a lot of effort initially, you’ll have a clear and focused approach to your fundraising efforts for the year. And that’s worth the effort!


PS – If you want to learn more about how using permission-based asking can help you overcome obstacles to creating strategic donor plans, check out our online training on Making Effective Donor Asks!