We are nearing the mid-point of 2020, which is kind of a natural time to take stock of our plans and adjust course. This year, however, most of us are navigating through unforeseen circumstances that have required us to change our plans or in some cases completely overhaul them.
I thought this would be a great time to share my philosophy and process for planning so over the next few weeks you can expect to see a series of posts on this very topic.
Today we're starting at the beginning with setting what I call a chief initiative.
What is a Chief Initiative?
A chief initiative is the focal point of your fundraising or communications plan. It is the high level goal that you've identified as a top priority and that you plan to work diligently towards.
Whatever your chief initiative, it must make sense for your non-profit. Don't just set a chief initiative that looks good on paper but fails to account for your non-profit's unique circumstances, resources, history, etc. This is one of the biggest mistakes I've seen clients and students make. Setting a chief initiative that ultimately won't work for them, which makes it even more difficult to execute on.
Why Your Non-Profit Needs a Chief Initiative
Oh I could give you a lot reasons why you should have a chief initiative. But it really boils down to one thing: Focus looks good on you!
I say this to clients and students all the time. When it comes to comms and fundraising (or anything really!), we can choose to do a lot of things, which leads us to be spread thin, which leads us to feel overwhelmed, which often leads us to not getting the results we want. Sound familiar?
I've been there. I've worked with massive fundraising and communications plans that had the best of intentions but ultimately set us all up for everyone up for failure.
My philosophy has always been that I want my clients to do exceptional work and in my experience, exceptional work tends to happen when they chose to work on fewer things. By setting a meaningful chief initiative, you can be more strategic in what you choose to work on through out the year so that you get closer to your biggest goal.
Examples of Chief Initiatives
Let's make this more concrete and look at some examples of chief initiatives.
- The amount of money you want to raise in a giving period of time -- This might seem obvious and you might already do some goal setting like this, but here's where I want to challenge you. Make your dollar amount goal more specific by adding in information about the how. For example, raising $100,000 from 3 major gifts and 2 annual giving campaigns. That already gives us way more focus than just writing down raising $100k by December 31st.
- Building your digital fundraising program -- This is a great example of a chief initiative because it really is a huge project to undertake! There are lot of projects and supporting activities that need to happen to bring it to fruition.
- Increasing donor retention by 15% -- Again, another chief initiative that would require multiple projects and activities over time.
- Being known regionally as an issue area expert -- This is one of my favorite chief initiatives for communications because it can be transformative for organizations to be recognized in this way.
- Making marked progress to change or influence public opinion on an issue work work on -- I won't sugar coat this one, it can be difficult to measure. And yet, if your organization has an advocacy or policy component to its work, this can be a very worthwhile communications chief initiative.
Here's what I'll say in summary about this examples -- whatever you choose as your chief initiative should feel like it has game changing potential for your non-profit.
It might feel a little uncomfortable to see as a goal and that's okay! It it's feeling a little uncomfortable (or even overwhelming), I often suggest that organizations set good, better, and best versions of their chief initiative. I find that for staff this can take a bit of the pressure off knowing that success is defined in multiple ways, one of which is attainable.
For example if your chief initiative is to build your build your digital fundraising program, here's what good, better, best might look like.
- Good -- Setting up and building our email list to 500 subscribers; creating a high converting landing page; running 2 digital fundraising campaigns that raise $2,500
- Better -- Setting up and building our email list to 1,000 subscribers; creating custom high converting landing pages for each campaign we run; running 2 digital fundraising campaigns that raise $4,000
- Best -- Setting up and building our email list to 3,000 subscribers; creating custom high converting landing pages for each campaign we run; running 3 digital fundraising campaigns that raise $10,000
If you've found this post helpful, you may enjoy this webinar recording that is a 90-minute guided workshop on planning. Yes, it talks about planning for 2019 but everything I teach in it is applicable to planning anytime!
Interested in storytelling planning resources? My book has worksheets and step-by-step guidance to help you create a custom 12-month storytelling plan.