Reimagining your 2020 Development Plan for COVID-19

By: Nadine Gabai-Botero, CFRE, President

April 22, 2020

Now that we’re more than a month into the pandemic, organizations are shifting from crisis mode to thinking through longer-term programmatic and outreach efforts. This has a direct impact on your development planning, so you should be focusing on what the next several months/year will look like.

For some groups, your response to helping those in need was straightforward: if you help feed the hungry, you're providing more meals or groceries. If you serve kids after school, you're engaging young people online. The development strategy in those cases has been equally direct: ask current and prospective donors to support your vital work.

For other nonprofits – those in the arts, advocacy, or the environmental space, for instance – the shift may not have been as clear, but it is as important. All nonprofits are affected by COVID-19 and are responding in some way. If you are going to be successful in continuing your fundraising, you have to make the case for your mission in the current situation and detail why funds are needed.

This includes developing the vision for your organization now and the goals you want to achieve. With those elements defined, you can adapt your development plan and outline your strategies through 2020.

Clarify Your Vision and Name Your Goals

Your vision should reflect your mission and aim to reach the audience you typically serve, but the work you do may look quite different. What are you not able to do now (i.e. put on a performance, conduct research in the field, meet with policymakers?) and how are you shifting efforts to continue your work? How can you keep serving your constituents virtually? Be creative but stay focused on those you serve!

Once you’ve reflected on how your work is shifting, create goals that will help drive activity, programming and, ultimately, fundraising. Which projects need to be put on hold? How can you expand some activities to meet the needs of those you serve? Because there is so much uncertainty now – how long it will last, what a second wave might look like – be prepared to revisit your goals and make adjustments as needs change this year.

Revamp Your Plan

Once you define your vision and goals, your updated development plan should reflect the best prospects to support you now and during this year. The plan must take into account changing economic realities, including a potential reduction in corporate donations and possible emergency support from foundations and government sources. You may also receive additional major gifts from long-time donors, need to reflect a shift away from event revenue, and can add new donations from individuals reached through initiatives like #GivingTuesdayNow, other appeals, and board outreach.

Your revised 2020 development plan should be structured by giving channel (individuals, foundations, corporations, government), and identify activities and outreach efforts to target groups within each channel. The revised plan should outline your messaging and timing for engagement, identify the lead staff or volunteer to spearhead efforts, and define the timing for outreach.

For most organizations, 2020 will look much different than it was when budgeting and planning last year. But, if you can pivot quickly to determine why your mission is still critical and relevant, what’s needed now, and how your organization can fill that need, you can hopefully minimize the fallout and (possibly!) even expand support.