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Sunday, January 21, 2018

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Your strategic plan = your case for support?
Tom Ahern

September, 2010

I am having so much fun.

I'm working with a national advocacy organization, helping them write a persuasive case for support. Goal: more than $100 million.

This is the public phase: they only have 20% left to raise. Everyone's passionate. Everyone's smart. Everyone has her/his eye on the prize.

Only one thing has caused much agita. The senior executives weren't sure I fully understood the importance of their strategic plan.

Well, I do.

I understand the importance of the strategic plan to insiders. What I'm never sure of: Will outsiders care? Mostly, I suspect, no.

To create a good strategic plan, a nonprofit will often conduct an exhausting, three-year, navel-gazing exercise involving every level of the organization, from the board down to the trenches.

Someone will write up the conclusions.

Everyone in authority will approve it.

And now, finally, the organization feels that it is really, really ready to raise the money needed to execute the plan.

As one of my all-time favorite clients would always gently say when encountering my errors in logic, "Not so fast, Schmedley." (Hi, Bob. Miss you, babe.)

Remember (in fact, needlepoint it into a pillow), outsiders care about the PROMISE of your strategic plan, not the DETAILS of the plan itself.

They assume you're basically competent. Otherwise, they'd never give you money. (Well, actually, that's not true. But we'll save that "strange truths of human psychology" discussion for another time.)

Thinking that a strategic plan has sales appeal is a typical "insider" vs. "outsider" issue.

Insiders care about the nuts and bolts. They're convinced that the plan will work, if only they can fund it.

On the other hand, outsiders care about the results -- and only about the results. They're glad you have a plan. But they don't care terribly about the details. That's your business.

You MUST write for that outside world if you want to quickly reach your fundraising goals.

Think of it this way.

Your strategic plan is the watchworks. It's efficient. It has a lot of gears. It's mechanical. It's momentarily intriguing. But truly nobody other than watchmakers or connoisseurs really care how the thing works.

The average watch owner, on the other hand, wants just three benefits: (1) to tell time; (2) to arrive punctually at appointments; and (3) to look swell doing it.

A strategic plan outlines what the organization thinks is important to (1) make major headway in its mission, (2) ensure its relevancy, and [hence] (3) ensure its survival.

Insiders deeply care about these things.

Outsiders deeply care about one thing: If I give you money, will I be glad I did?

Takeaway >>>>

You must talk differently to outsiders. You must learn the limitations -- and move away -- from institution-speak.

When you fully immerse yourself instead in "outsider"-speak, and clearly, cleanly, directly address the psychology of prospective donors, you will raise more money -- and faster. Oh, and you'll retain more donors, too.



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