We Don't Need a Strategic Plan . . . Just a Good Case for Support!

A Solid Organization and a Worthwhile Project

Most development professionals can probably count on one hand the number of times a donor asked for the organization’s strategic plan. Rarely is anyone interested in seeing a detailed planning document — they just want a summary of the case for support, or the elevator speech. So who needs a strategic plan?

Some may believe all that is required are the carefully crafted and compelling words from a fund-raising brochure or one-page brief — words that are so moving that the local philanthropist reaches an enlightened understanding about the value of your organization. How many times have you been asked for just the “elevator speech?” So, we repeat: who needs a strategic plan? Well, if you want a clear and concise appeal . . . you need a long-term plan for the organization.

Our firm is often charged with developing a client’s preliminary case to set the stage for a campaign planning study. On occasion, this seemingly simple task can run into significant challenges. The preliminary case and its intended use require a concise document of a few pages, one that presents a clear picture of the organization and its plan for growth and improvement. What could possibly be so difficult about that? Especially if the organization is considering advancement that requires a major gifts fund-raising campaign, right?

If you set out to develop a case statement before the strategic plan has been forged, your fund-raising success will only arrive through sheer luck.

Crafting a preliminary case will be a challenging and difficult task if the organization lacks a strategic plan. If you set out to develop a case statement before the strategic plan has been forged, your fund-raising success will only arrive through sheer luck.

Once you do that, you will raise more money.

Goettler Associates prides itself on helping clients pursue and achieve challenging goals. And where our firm has been most successful is when a client’s leaders were able to clearly articulate their future direction. Today’s fast-paced and increasingly competitive nonprofit marketplace requires a plan — a strategic plan.

Let’s be clear. We’re not talking about the planning that most undertake as a matter of budgeting and normal operations, or a development plan predicting a five percent growth based on last year’s activities and tasks. We mean a plan established through focused research, deliberate discussions and entrepreneurial thinking.

By necessity, an organization’s leadership must continuously work to design its own future. To do so, staff and volunteer leaders must understand the external environment, the opportunities presented by that environment, and the organization’s internal capabilities and constraints. Entrepreneurial planning must look at forces outside the organization’s immediate control as well.

If your organization has not completed a careful planning process in recent memory, then it is incumbent upon the development function to challenge its leaders to re-engage. Our experience shows this work will be richly rewarded, especially if it is conducted in an inclusive manner. By asking your board members and other stakeholders to participate in elements of your planning, you will build their level of involvement in your organization’s future.

Ask fund-raising counsel to lead an inclusive development planning process that formally involves your external stakeholders in assessing the future.

Certainly, it’s best if this thinking and these decisions are recorded in written form — most typically called a strategic plan — but don’t let the burden of a title stop you from asking important questions of donors and involving them in these vital decisions.

Let’s face it, very few people will ever ask to see your final strategic plan. Yet they do want to know that you, as an organization, have a clear sense of who you are, what your unique competencies are, and how these will impact the future.

The simple act of providing clear and concise answers to your most generous donors about the future direction or your organization will have a powerful and positive affect on their decision to philanthropically invest.


click here for pdf version: FRM57

For more on The Case for Support, How it Can Position Your Institution for Success access Goettler Series Volume 4.