Annual Development Planning

Looking back on 2019, what are your donors telling you?
Strategic planning is important to the success of development programs too. It’s incumbent on nonprofits, no matter their fiscal year, to look back on donor and gift history for each calendar year to inform development planning. If your fiscal year is not a calendar year, then it is likely close to a halfway point on December 31. Looking at your fundraising data, both donors and gifts, can tell you a lot about what you are doing right….and where there is need for improvement.

Reviewing past data
Use your software to run reports on gifts received in the calendar year since this is how, for the most part, donors structure their giving. You should find report templates or you may have the ability to construct custom reports to run. In either case, you’ll want to see information for the most recent calendar year, and for the two years prior. Once you get the hang of this, you can go back to earlier years, but start with the current plus most recent two. This will help you see important trends (more on that shortly).

Find your top donors
Start by looking at the gifts you received from individuals, and make sure you are counting donor-advised fund gifts, family foundation gifts, and gifts from trusts. These may be recorded in your database as soft credits, or as gifts from the fund or foundation, but these gifts were directed or facilitated by an individual, and that donor is where your focus must be moving forward. Sort this list by gift amount to see who your top donors are.

Now the really interesting – and informative – part. You should be able to easily see who your “top” donors are by gift amount, but you will also be able to see the donors who are consistent and loyal in their giving over multiple years, regardless of the amount. Both of these groups are critical to your organization and represent the most likely candidates for increased gifts. These are the donors on whom you should spend the majority of your time: stewardship of the donors you have and cultivation of deeper relationships with each of them. This will provide significantly greater results than time spent adding new donors, although you should continue to do that as well, through events, social media, and other efforts.

Identify other donor patterns
It’s important to look at “lapsed” donors – ones who gave a gift but then did not continue to give. Reach out to them in the coming year to renew their support and make sure any large donors among them have a staff or board member assigned to keep them informed and engaged. Also look at “renewed” donors, who lapsed and then returned. Call each and every one of them, thank them, and ask what prompted them to renew their support. And those “top donors?” Whatever you do, don’t take their support for granted. Personal calls after receiving a gift should be your protocol.

Evaluate your fundraising strategies
With the information you gain through these relatively simple efforts, you will have invaluable feedback on which of your fundraising efforts brought the most response (repeat them), which brought the least response (reassess them), and on which of your donors you should spend the most time and effort in the coming year. Your development planning and allocation of staff and other resources will be more strategic and measurable as a result.

How ESC can help
ESC can work with you to develop or improve your fundraising strategies, ranging from identifying donor giving patterns like those described above, improving board fundraising efforts, and/or assessing organizational need and readiness for capital campaigns.