Strategic Planning for the Folks who Raise the Money

Nov 3, 2017

Reposted with permission from Library Strategies

Friends and foundations need a plan as much as the library does. All too often, however, these organizations operate from year to year with no direction or plan in place. So, it’s time to think about development planning!

Development planning is strategic planning for the support organizations that raise funds for their libraries. A development plan articulates the activities an organization engages in (advocacy, annual campaigns, special events, capital campaigns, etc.) and establishes goals and strategies, or actions, within each of these focus areas.

A good development plan starts out by defining the Library’s financial needs. These are usually presented by the Library Director and could be anything from a summer reading program to a new library building. Or, they could be public funding needs, which would be addressed by a political advocacy effort.  Starting with an understanding of the Library’s needs, gives direction and context so that the Friends or foundation can determine how it can help meet these needs through their development activities.

The development plan should also include goals around the Friends or foundation’s structure and its effectiveness. How is the board organized (committee structure)? How are new board members recruited? Do you have a board orientation program? Including board development goals will ensure that your organization stays vibrant and effective.

The big benefit of development planning is that it brings your board together to review your current activities and commit to goals within each activity. Often, it leads to adding new activities, such as a planned giving program or public awareness (raising the visibility of the Friends or foundation). The process of development planning focuses your support organization’s board on what it needs to do and how it’s going to be successful in its efforts.

A development planning process is fairly straight-forward and typically includes these steps:

  • Conduct a capacity assessment of the Friends or foundation. Identify what’s working and what needs to be fine-tuned or completely overhauled? This is usually done by a consultant who conducts interviews with the Library Director and three or four board members to assess the organization’s current activities and determine where there are opportunities to build capacity.
  • Engage in a planning retreat (a half-day works great!) where Board members critically look at the organization’s activities and establish concrete goals and strategies – and determine whether new activities should be added. The Library Director should definitely be a part of this planning process. If your library has both a Friends group and a foundation, it’s helpful to include a representative from the other support organization in your planning retreat to ensure that each group understands its own unique role in supporting the library.
  • Once you’ve established your goals and strategies, view the plan in terms of three years. What do you want to accomplish in year one of the plan (priorities) and what will your three-year goals be?
  • Identify who is responsible for each action in the plan. Is it an individual champion, a committee, staff, or the board as a whole? Without someone, or a specific group, assigned to move the action forward it’s easy to assume it will ‘just get done.’

Development planning is a truly valuable process that moves an organization from having great ideas to actually accomplishing great things in support of your library.

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