What is the difference between a strategic plan, a business plan and a fundraising plan?

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Part one of a three part series

Planning is at the heart of nonprofit organizations and institutions. That’s everyone from grassroots organizations, to colleges and universities, to hospitals and museums, to international aid organizations, and more. Planning is the work of the board, executive leadership, staff, volunteers, and community members and stakeholders. All have a role to play.

Planning includes research, input sessions, visioning, and the creation of timelines, roles and responsibilities to guide implementation. Three cornerstone plans are the strategic plan, the business plan, and the fundraising plan. Most organizations have some form of a strategic plan and many will have a fundraising activity plan. Less common is the business plan, and a full-blown fundraising plan that ties to the strategic plan and the business plan.

Depending on your experience, personality type, and the structure and capacity of your board you may already feel overwhelmed by the prospect of so much planning. We understand, and that the same time we must repeat the infamous quote from Benjamin Franklin: If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail!

This series of columns focuses on all three types of plans and is based on our interview with talented nonprofit planner Bridget Ciaramitaro. She works with nonprofits in fundraising, board development, and strategic and business planning. She has led nonprofits in successful mergers and turnarounds, and works with foundations, schools, service delivery agencies, grass roots organizations, and development districts. Her experience is diverse, and her insights are keen.

We started our conversation with Ciaramitaro by asking about the difference between the three plans. We wanted to know which should be developed first, and what an organization needs to begin business planning.

A strategic plan sets the direction for the organization. A business plan focuses on the program and business models to determine how the strategic plan will be supported, and a fundraising plan outlines the strategies for raising needed resources identified in the business plan. I recommend developing the strategic plan and then the business plan. In 2005, I developed a model for strategic and business planning merging the two processes together to create a strategic business plan. This makes sense to me since the two need to happen before either can be completely useful. Ideally a fundraising plan is part of this process as well,” Ciaramitaro shared.

“Each organization has to determine what needs to be in their business plan. However, most plans include the following: Vision, mission, values, milestones and lessons learned from the past; the need being addressed by the organization; theory of change and program model; marketing and outreach strategies; a three to five year planning budget; a defined unit cost of service now and in three to five years; anticipated return on investment; and the business model.”

Stay tuned for part two on strategic and fundraising plans, and part three on creating a business plan. Share these columns within your organization and get ready to plan.

Bridget Ciaramitaro is the president of Ciaramitaro & Associates, LLC and can be reached at bridgetciaramitaro@att.net or via LinkedIn.


Copyright 2019 – Mel and Pearl Shaw

When you’re ready to grow your fundraising, call us at (901) 522-8727 or visit www.saadandshaw.com.

Image courtesy of 123RF.com.

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