When Is a Strategic Plan Not a Strategic Plan?

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Answer:  When it’s a development plan.

So then what is a development plan? A development plan is the plan that addresses how you fund your library beyond its operating budget. Library support organizations (library foundations and/or Friends groups) create development plans to direct their fundraising and advocacy activities. Development planning is a rapidly growing activity with library foundations and Friends.

A good development plan is linked to the Library’s strategic plan. For example, the John Smith Library may have in its strategic plan building a new library, creating a teen space, or expanding its Summer Reading program. Its support organization’s development plan should address how the library foundation or Friends will raise the necessary funds to help the library pay for these new or expanded activities.

Development planning is relatively new in the library world, but it is becoming more critical as libraries continue to struggle for public and private funding. Libraries are looking to their support organizations for funds that will be used to expand or enhance their services. This may require additional public funds (secured through citizen advocacy efforts) or private funding sources (individuals, foundations, or corporations). A good development plan should include both fundraising and advocacy activities.

The development planning process is similar to a strategic planning process in that it is a procedure of assessing the current state of affairs for a foundation or Friends group and then setting goals and identifying strategies to meet those goals. The process can be completed in one to two months. It requires the involvement of the Library Director, members of the foundation or Friends Board, and sometimes it will include the Library’s Board of Trustees. If a Library is lucky enough to have both a foundation and a Friends group, the process can include planning for both organizations. This assures that all three organizations: the library, the foundation, and the Friends, are operating in sync and moving toward the same goals.

A typical development plan will have several focus areas, usually including:

  • Board development (essential!)
  • Annual campaigns
  • Individual donor cultivation
  • Donor recognition
  • Planned giving
  • Corporate sponsorship
  • Marketing and public awareness
  • Capital campaigns (if a new or renovated library is in the future)
  • Political Advocacy

The final development plan will include goals within each of these focus areas, strategies/action steps, a timeline, and responsibilities (committees or individuals who will lead the efforts in a particular focus area).

The benefits of having a solid development plan in place include:

  • Ensuring that an organization understands its charge (to support the library) and has a clear sense of direction.
  • Placing everyone on the same page in terms of activities and concrete goals.
  • Creating a comprehensive annual plan for foundation or Friends group activities.
  • Being used as a tool for measuring a support organization’s success.

So, if your library has a strategic plan (and it should), the next step should be making sure that your foundation/Friends has its own development plan!