When I first decided to have a blog, I had a plan. I had it all in my head. What it would be called, how many times I would post, where I would share it, and what I would write about for each post. This is how most of my planning starts – whether creating a blog, planning special events, creating direct mail pieces, a full year development plan, or strategic plans – it all starts with the ideas in my head.
My latest plan is about this blog. As I provide some tips to start a plan, I’ll use where I am with this blog as a real life view of how these steps can be used. To be honest, I’ve already strayed from the plan, and I’m okay with that. It’s okay to stray. It’s not okay to ignore. These are the same steps I take to create plans for fundraising, too. I can utilize these with any type of plan I need to create. I simply have to start.
Tips to get started on your plan.
Write it out. Do not leave your plan in your head. What happens if you win the lottery and never show back up to work? (We can all dream, right?)
Having a written plan is more than having a document in a drawer for reference for the day you are no longer there. Writing it down helps you see the holes, the overlaps, and the attainable and unattainable tactics you want to use. The goals are spelled out. The actions are detailed. Get a calendar and write in by month or day the action steps. It’s amazing what happens when you start to see that you’ve scheduled everything for the end of year to happen all in the same week. You can then evaluate what can be done early, late, or at another time all together.
Plus, how can you convince others to join in making the plan a reality if all they have are your thoughts – where is the collaboration?
For my blog, I started with a launch date. I then decided I was going to post each week on one specific day. I wrote it all out…the dates, the ideas for the posts, the timeline. I kept my blog plan to a simple timeline with the concept of the blog in mind. So, what’s happened so far? The dates have all changed because I launched later than I originally thought I would. I’ve also changed to every other week instead of every week. The plan details have changed, but the goal has not. Life happens, and we have to adapt accordingly.
Plans must be attainable. Do not over promise in a plan.
The worst feeling in the world is looking at how you are doing in a plan and realizing you must have been on an “I am Wonder Woman” kick the day you wrote it out. We all want to be able to achieve our dreams and goals, but we get there sometimes slowly, sometimes quickly. When planning, it’s best to fall somewhere in the middle. For the blog, I mentioned before that I went from once a week to once every other week. That was more attainable for me at this point of my life. If you can’t be flexible then your plan may not be viable for you. For work, I often started with an entire year goal, then broke it down into quarters, and sometimes even months. The more I broke down the goal, the more attainable it became. There were also the goals that I broke down and realized they were simply not attainable at this time, but I knew I could utilize the plan to get close to the goal, so I did. Don’t let the larger goal scare you from realizing it could be attainable.
Use strategy to make your plan viable. Fundraising in a silo is not effective.
For the blog, my strategy is simply to offer my thoughts and create discussion around nonprofit management, specifically fundraising. Nothing too drastic or life changing, but something that is important to me and I have knowledge of from my career. With my plan, I wrote out topics that fit that strategy. It’s simple. Viable plans do not have to be complex.
For work, I created fundraising plans around the organization’s strategy. If you are not using your organization’s overall strategy and goals to set fundraising goals and tactics, you are fundraising in a silo. It’s much easier to raise money for programs that are part of the organization’s overall goal instead of the “pet projects” that one person wants funded. And if you work for a nonprofit in the development department and have never seen your organization’s strategic plan, ask for a copy. Most leadership will have no issue sharing the strategic plan with a staff member. Knowing the why behind your own plan is as imperative as knowing the how to attain the goal.
Follow and Review the plan. Don’t forget about the plan.
You’ve written it out. It flows with your organization’s strategy. Use the plan!
Weekly, I look at my planned calendar of posts. I mentioned before, I’ve already strayed from the plan. I realized I didn’t have a post about planning, so here we are. The great realization is the other information in my plan is still viable. I’m sure some posts will be deleted and changed along the way, but the overall plan to post on April 16 still happened.
For work, when you follow the plan, you will not fall for the “shiny new fundraising idea” that will be suggested to you. That’s not to say that new idea isn’t fruitful. It may simply need to be added to the plan in an effective way. You also must review the plan. There are parts that may not work when it comes down to execution. Scrap it and add the “new shiny idea”. Often times, strategy changes, so the fundraising plan needs to change as well. After trying part of the plan and reviewing the outcome of that one action, you may realize that it will be more beneficial to try a different tactic next time. Don’t waste your time on ineffective actions. Utilize the plan as your guide, not your rules.
For a quick review, here are my four tips for plans:
4. Follow and Review
If you’ve never written a plan before, start with these basics and the rest will come together. A quick search of fundraising development plans will lead you to a number of articles with the best ways to create a plan. Here’s one of my favorites from The Fundraising Authority.
Whether you prefer a calendar, a document, a storyboard, or a spreadsheet, having a plan with attainable and viable goals is essential to success.
GO FORTH AND PLAN!