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Pitching Your Fundraising Plan to the Board

Sep 23, 2021

It’s my friend’s birthday today and for most, it’s a very special time. You want to celebrate with friends and family, open presents, and my favourite…eat cake.

Get your fork…there’s enough for all of us!

 And yes, I know that I talked about cake before, but I really love it!

Talking about celebrations, you want to feel elated when your board signs off on your fundraising plan because you know you poured yourself into building it and they should just approve it, non?

There’s more to it than that…

We’re talking board engagement.

And there are some principles we’re going to share that are useful for the fundraising plan…but to be honest, you can extend these principles to any new initiative that you are trying to introduce to the organization.

I see this scenario so often…

You work really hard on developing a new initiative.

>>You present it to the board

>>>>It gets ripped to shreds.

>>>>>>You go back to the drawing board with your head hanging low.

 You worked really hard on developing your fundraising plan!

And I know exactly how hard it is and how long it can take to craft a really thoughtful plan that balances pragmatism and optimism.

It’s that balance between we can do this (said matter of factly) and we can do even more than we thought (sprinkled with a fair amount of hope and knowing that you may need some fairy dust to sprinkle on you to reach your lofty goals.)

I don’t want you to work that hard on such an important and foundational piece of work, only to have it rebuffed because the board hasn’t been able to see themselves in it.

You can’t create a plan that requires broad buy-in throughout the organization by yourself. Long before you get to the board meeting where you’re going to present the plan…

 you need to have allies on your side.

Let me start by telling you one of my true confessions to illustrate what I mean.

One of the lovely things about being later in my career is that I don’t worry about sharing some of the mistakes I made earlier in my career.

We all make them.

And I’ve never understood why consultants pretend they were perfect when they worked in agencies.

You want consultants who have both succeeded and made mistakes, if you ask me. If they didn’t make mistakes, they didn’t reach high enough! They played it safe.

Ok, back to the topic at hand.

I want to tell you the story about a place I worked.

I was the ED of the Foundation and the CEO of the operating organization was technically, the head of the foundation, although in practice, I ran the foundation.

I put together a great fundraising plan where I was requesting an investment in two new staff. SO, it would take us from 3 to 5 full-time staff.

We were growing quickly, and I was spreading my staff really thin and we had grown so much that we were starting to drop balls… but my calculations showed that I needed a full year before the two new staff would begin to generate more revenue than their salaries.

That was a big deal for a risk-averse board.

  • I worked super hard.
  • I had line charts showing revenue and expenses and projected growth in year two with the new hires.
  • I had the numbers down pat.
  • I had a narrative that I hoped made sense.
  • I engaged allies on the board: the Treasurer had my back and one other board member was supportive.

I felt ready.

Now, here is the background info…my CEO, whose name was John (remember this because it’s important), was kind of absent in his role as leader of fundraising.

I would go so far as to say we had a challenging relationship. He let me do my thing if it didn’t require too much of his attention.

So, given the dynamic we had, I did all of my homework, and mentioned my thoughts to him…

but didn’t really sit down with him to go over it in detail, because he didn’t really want that.

The board meeting day came...(can you feel the tension mounting?)

I presented.

I had my charts and my graphs and the narrative.

I walked everyone through my scenarios.

And then a board member asked…

“What does John think about this?”

Oh boy…

I’ll continue with the rest of my story next week but it brings me to another point…

you can’t pitch to the board if you don’t have a solid fundraising plan.

So we’re hosting a free webinar called the 5 Steps to Developing Your Fundraising Plan.

 What will you learn:

  • The 5-step process Cathy uses with her clients
  • The essential pieces required in a plan to help you raise more money

Bonus: we'll also share sample fundraising plan templates and have a question-and-answer session at the end of the webinar.

And it's live!

Join us for either date:

Wednesday, September 29 at 12pm ET

Tuesday, October 5 at 3pm ET

Did we mention that it’s free? Zero charge. Nada.


Until then, I’m going to find that cake and celebrate with my friend.

Cathy and the team at The Fundraising Lab

P.S. Attend the webinar and you’ll learn how to create an actionable and achievable fundraising plan. Don't miss out!


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