Implementing and Evaluating Your Plan

development plan Feb 23, 2021

One of the biggest problems with many development plans (as well as strategic and other plans) is that they sit on a shelf gathering dust. If the plan has all the components discussed in my previous blogs on this topic, it should be easy to implement and easily measured. Most plans fail because the organization is really good at setting goals and objectives, but not always as diligent when it comes to establishing the action steps necessary to implement their goals or making sure someone is held responsible to take the action steps.

Before the plan is complete, an evaluation process should be in place. This process will include assigning a person, usually the chief development officer, to monitor the plan on a regular basis.  The plan should also include a section which lists all the action steps in chronological order; a section that lists each step that has a budget impact, both positive and negative; and a section that outlines tasks by areas of responsibility.

Developing metrics by which to measure the success of the plan will be critical. If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it. The areas of responsibility will help you understand that if things are not getting done, perhaps they were assigned to the wrong person or team, or maybe you are understaffed and have “bitten off more than you can chew.”

Likewise, the timelines will help you determine if your objectives are realistic, there are only so many hours in the day!

And if the budget is not realistic, you may find yourself without the tools you need to complete all the tasks in the plan.

If each person, committee or department that is responsible for implementing the plan has an easy tool to measure their own progress, it is much more likely that they will follow the plan. Similarly, the budget outline will be helpful when presenting the plan to the CEO, the CFO or the board that must approve expenditures needed to implement the plan. Finally, the timeline in chronological order will make it simple for the chief development officer to measure progress on a monthly, or even weekly, basis.

At every development department staff meeting, the plan should be reviewed, especially in relation to the timeline and the areas of responsibility that relate to development department staff. The chief development officer (CDO) should not use the plan to point fingers at staff members who may be falling behind in carrying out their parts of the plan, but rather as a tool to celebrate progress and discuss issues that might be impeding the progress of the plan.  Often there are segments of the plan that are not accomplished according to the timelines, but there may be extenuating circumstances that justify this deviation from the plan. For example, perhaps a direct mail piece did not get mailed on time because there was a major grant application due which took precedence over the mailing.

The development committee, who has a great deal of responsibility for both developing and implementing the plan, should also review it on a regular basis. A segment of each development committee meeting should be devoted to reviewing progress on the plan and making adjustments if necessary.  And the board, which also has a major responsibility for certain segments of the plan, should also review the plan periodically to assess progress and help establish goals for the next planning year.  The plan will also be helpful at performance evaluation time and decision-making.

The CDO should discuss the plan with his or her CEO and outline progress made on the plan and areas that might be hindering implementation of the plan, such as lack of technology, lack of board and CEO involvement, staff limitations, and budget constraints.

One of the tools that can help set realistic goals is to review already established guidelines for each component of the plan. It will help to compare your organization's progress with acceptable standards in many areas. Remember that some non-monetary goals should also be established in the plan, particularly for organizations that are new to development. Be sure to celebrate progress made on these goals as well, it is not always just about the money!

Try not to get discouraged if not all goals are met; looking at the plan on a regular basis will assure that some goals are not totally ignored while other areas are being perused. And staff, board and volunteers must not be led astray by delving into areas that are not in the plan. If a good idea is presented that is not in the plan, the CDO should suggest that the idea be investigated further and possibly incorporated into the next plan. If the opportunity is immediate and the organization feels compelled to pursue it, then those involved need to examine the plan to see what area might have to be eliminated from the current plan to pursue this new opportunity.

One thing to remember is that the plan is not written in stone, but neither is it written in disappearing ink! It should be flexible, but not too flexible.

To learn more about assessing your development program, take my course, The Leaky Bucket: What’s Wrong with Your Fundraising and How You Can Fix It. Sign up here

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