Document 11187735

 Using Your Fundraising Plan as a Guide Throughout the Year
The Set-It-And-Forget-It Trap
Best practices suggest that each organization should have a strategic plan and that every
strategy should have a financial component to it. As the year begins, now is the time to focus on
revenue. For nonprofits, that means fundraising, and for Cathedral, that means a MIDBI
The calendar breaks down the fundraising process into five key elements, and allows each to be
planned and tracked throughout the year. The elements are:
Major Donors
Donor Database
Board of Directors
The MIDBI calendar provides a road map for fundraising throughout the year. But while some
organizations create this map, only the best stick with it. The set-it-and-forget-it trap is real and it
negatively affects every organization in which it is present. We have found there are four key
principles that successful organizations understand that help them stay focused on the plan.
1. Plan Carefully
The first principle is extremely simple: plan your fundraising calendar well. If the important
events in the fundraising cycle have not been inputted into the correct time-periods, no
organization following the calendar could function efficiently. After a time, the fundraising team
would likely set the tool aside and begin using something else. When that happens, the problem
is not the tool’s fault: incorrect use of a tool is not proof that it cannot be used well. A better
alternative is to spend more time planning the calendar at the beginning of the year.
However, even organizations that work hard in the planning process realize the calendar will
need improvements in the coming years. The best calendars takes a number of iterations to
complete. Completing the exercise a number of years in a row will result in an ever-improving
planning process, and a more and more sophisticated MIDBI calendar with each year.
2. The Power of the 30-Day Review
Thirty days is a standard reporting and assessment period, especially where finances and
money are concerned. For this reason, thirty days is the optimal time to step back and review
progress on plans and strategy. Often called a management discussion and analysis, Cathedral
facilitates these monthly reviews in our General Executive Counsel Services. Whatever form it
takes, a monthly review is essential to staying focused on a plan. In this process, the plan is
reviewed and refined. In so doing, an organization sets itself up for current and future growth.
Businesses make the distinction between working on the business and working in the business.
This principle arises because it is easy to get caught up in the daily needs of the business that
one never steps back to assess the business as a whole: “What could be improved?,” “What are
opportunities to take advantage of in the near future?,” or “How did last month go?”
Applying this principle to the fundraising calendar, we find a monthly grid outlining tasks for the
five MIDBI areas each month becomes a helpful tool in the review. Click here for a more indepth discussion of the MIDBI calendar.
3. Understand the Difference between Urgent and Important
A former president of Northwestern University once said, “I have two kinds of problems: the
urgent and the important. The urgent are not important, and the important are never urgent.”
This phrase became more well-known when President Dwight D. Eisenhower read the quote in
his address to the World Council of Churches in 1954.1 And it became more well-known, still,
when Stephen R. Covey re-allocated it as a productivity tool in his iconic book, Seven Habits of
Highly Effective People. Since that point, it has helped over 25 million people organize their
personal and professional lives.
The grid that comes as a result is shown below. All tasks that someone is assigned can be put
in one of the four boxes.
The goal of the tool is to help people differentiate between tasks which they react to
(categorized as urgent) and tasks that are more aligned with long-term goals (categorized as
In our firm’s interactions with a number of nonprofits, we have noticed this can be true of
organizations as well as people. While many set up their workflow based on long-term goals,
most allow daily pressures to push off the long-term focus. The value of the MIDBI calendar
comes in the ability to see the entire year at a glance so that you can remember to plan in
January for that golf outing in August, or begin thinking about end of the year donations in
4. Understand the Natural Pace of Organizations and Foundations
There is a natural rhythm to fundraising. There is opportunity at the beginning of the year to
accomplish tasks, but everything slows down around mid-June because a majority of Americans
1 take vacation in the summer. As a result, organizations focus on filling gaps while foundations
review fewer proposals because both their staff and donors are away.
Organizations can take advantage of this knowledge by sprinting out of the gate at the
beginning of the year. Once the summer begins, it is time to think about end-of-the-year
fundraising. Cathedral’s Topic of the Month series focuses on year-end planning, and that can
be found in the August TOMs.
There are a number of reasons why sprinting out of the gate is critical. However, two mindsets
hold organizations back. If these two mindsets can be conquered organizations will find
themselves in a healthier position, and, thus, we want to address them both here:
“Fundraising is a year-end game. We can focus on it then.”
o While there is an element of truth in this statement, it is incomplete. It is
incomplete because the person who thinks that way forgets that things that one
does in January effect year-end giving. For example, organizations that do not
develop their major donors throughout the year rarely receive consistent giving
from this group. In addition, foundation staff is often just as active in the first half
of the year as they are at the end of the year.
“We will be able to figure it out as we go.”
o Here again, there is an element of truth to the above statement. What it lacks,
however, is an awareness that certain aspects of the fundraising plan require a
significant amount of planning and time. Two of these items include directmailings and grant applications. Direct mailings, if they are to be effective must
go out at a specific time in order to correspond with the major events in the life of
the organization. They require an investment by the staff not only in writing the
materials, but in creating the list, and putting the mailing together.
Knowing and respecting the natural rhythms to the fundraising year will help your organization
better plan for revenue generation so that your times of highest activity are in sync with your
donors’ times of maximum engagement.
Disciplined Organizations Succeed.
Long-term movement in the same direction generally results in productivity, efficiency, and
wisdom in a way that sprinting in various directions cannot.
Articles for Further Reading:
• Time Management Grid – UGS, Department of Employee and Organizational
• Sidetracked: Why Can’t We Stick to the Plan? – Harvard Business School
Peter Giersch is a Managing Director of Cathedral Consulting Group, LLC in the Midwest Office.
Michael Walker is an Associate in the New York office.
For more information, please visit Cathedral Consulting Group LLC online at or contact us at [email protected]