10 Steps to Fundraising in a Crisis

Pandemics are exhausting, right?

In just a few weeks, organization and church leaders have learned to pivot their work to online while figuring out how to keep their staff and pay the bills with a marked reduction in income. The world (and funding) may have slowed down, but our missions did not, so how do we survive to keep serving our people?

I have good news. The Church and its ministries have been around for ages. We have seen crises before. We’ve always been the first to help, but we have haven’t done it alone. Alongside us have been individuals and groups who believe in the difference we are making in the world, and those are the people we need right now.

Over the last several weeks, I’ve spoken with many organization and church leaders who are all saying the same things. They are struggling financially, but they feel inconsiderate or guilty asking for help.

May I free you from that lonely prison of budget spreadsheets?

  1. No matter how well we stewarded the donor dollar or set aside a reserve fund, no one was prepared for this. This situation is not a result of bad planning or leadership. The whole world is experiencing this at the same time.
  2. You have permission to ask for what you need, just like you would want the people you serve to ask for what they need. It’s not inconsiderate; it’s transparent. My guess is it is exactly the vulnerable, community feeling you have been trying to create with your missions all along.

Here’s what we know from former crises. Organizations that stopped communicating with their members and donors did not fare as well on the other side as those who kept going. For some reason, we think it’s the nice thing to do to disconnect, that we are giving them a break while they are likely struggling as well. However, it tends to have the opposite effect, and they are less likely to reengage in the future.

We also know that there are three phases of fundraising in a crisis—the bump, the slump, and the surge. At the beginning of a crisis, for those who ask, there is often a bump in donations because your people are worried about you. As the crisis wears on, the slump hits, dropping below normal levels for a couple of months. Organizations who continue communicating during that time see a surge in giving a few months later. Organizations who don’t communicate during a crisis drop below normal giving rates and rarely recover.

In sum, you should absolutely be asking. Your people are expecting to hear from you. Learning to fundraise or develop an emergency campaign do not sound like the easiest or most fun things on your quarantine bucket list, but I’ve got you covered.

Get the guide, 10 Steps to Fundraising in a Crisis for manageable action steps to weather this storm.

Strategic Planning Section 3: How We Will Get There

Earlier in this series we discussed the first two parts of a strategic plan—who we are and who we want to become. We worked to write our vision statement and align our mission, core values and goals to the vision. We evaluated current activities and programs under new smart goals and brainstormed new timelines to stay on track.

Now it’s time to put down on paper how we will get there. Do some of your goals require your organization to grow, build, remodel, or purchase new equipment? This section takes your strategic plan from a pretty document on a shelf to a how-to guide that will prepare you to accomplish the goals you set in section one.

Resource Implications

Will you need to hire more staff to accomplish your goals? How far into the plan will you need to add them to the team? In this section we will look at the staff you have as well as the staff you need.

Organizational Structure

First, make an organizational chart of your current structure. If you utilize volunteer leadership, include those roles as well. This will give you a good idea of what you look like now, which will inform your growth. A good strategic plan is a snapshot of how the organization functions. This is the document someone could use to rebuild if leadership changes suddenly.

Speaking of, what does happen during a leadership change? What is your succession plan? Is your Executive Director hired by the board or an appointed position? How are volunteer leadership replaced if they step down? In the event of an unexpected change, you want to know what happens next. Who steps up to serve as interim? A good leadership succession plan identifies current positions and the skills required to meet both the job description and strategic plan goals. Using those qualities, the strategic planning committee evaluates current employees’ skills, which skills need to be developed, when an internal candidate may be ready, and if an executive search is necessary.

Future Staffing

Take what we’ve discovered here, and think about the new positions, goals, and activities will require. Make a list of new paid or voluntary positions, their roles, who they would report to, what year they will come on board, and approximately how much they will cost.

Facilities and Equipment

Conduct a thorough facilities and equipment evaluation using the framework below. Do the work to determine what will need to be replaced, upgraded, or remodeled during the period of your plan. Create a master list of projects, and determine the things that are reasonable to accomplish in three to five years.

Using the list, determine which year this facility or equipment issue needs to be resolved. Do the work to find a general, approximate estimate for the cost to increase the accuracy of the plan.

When this section is finished, share it with the finance committee or the leadership responsible for your budget. Since you have added financial needs for each year, they should be reflected in your next budget.

Funding the Plan

Now you have a complete list of new or tweaked programs to create, a plan for additional staff, and a list of facilities and equipment projects to complete. Organize this information by years to get a good picture of how much additional funding is need to achieve these goals. Is it balanced year to year? Do you need to think about tweaking the timeline?

With your amount of additional funding set, determine how that money will be raised. Are you funded by an outside organization that will increase funding? Are your programs revenue-based? Will you have to fundraise? Can your annual fund sustain this amount of growth? Do any of your projects require a capital campaign?

These numbers and answers to these questions will inform the fundraising plan you create in conjunction with the strategic plan.

Evaluation Process

If you have come this far in a strategic plan, you have put hours and hours of hard work into thinking about where you organization is headed. The plan is ready finished, but the work is just beginning. This is a living, breathing document meant to inform decisions along the way. Set a formal evaluation plan to make sure you and your board are regularly checking in to stay on target.

Choose an owner. You’ve heard the saying. If it is everyone’s job. It’s no one’s job. Put someone in charge of managing the strategic plan and its updated. When and how often will the plan be reviewed. Every board meeting? A separate regular committee meeting? Once a year?

What is the process? Will you update on the activities? Re-evaluate goal success? Check off facility and equipment updates?


Once you’ve written it on paper, you are 42% more likely to achieve it. You have a plan—a solid one—for the next several years. It is not meant to be a weight, tying you down, but a guide that shows you the way to the figure you agreed upon. All that is left is presenting you plan to the board and getting approval.

The planning is done, and now the real work begins. It’s time to get started on your first year’s goals.

If your organization is ready to pursue a strategic plan, allow Cabin 9 Consulting to serve your organization by facilitating conversations, asking the right questions and putting together all your hopes for your vision into something we can accomplish together. Bringing all parties together to go through the steps of a strategic plan is hard to do, especially if you are inside the organization. The best strategic plans allow the stakeholders to be stakeholders without also being facilitators. Contact us! We would be honored to work with you.

Strategic Plan Section 2: Who We Want to Become

The first post in this series discusses setting the foundation of the strategic plan with the right people at the table and the elements that describe who you are as an organization. Read Strategic Plans Section 1: Who We Are first, and come back here for part two.

With vision, mission, values and SWOT determined, it is time for your committee to put all of that information to good use setting goals to achieve by the timeline you set.

Strategic Goals

What does your organization want to accomplish in the next three to five years? You have already set a vision statement, thought about what you are good at, and brainstormed opportunities to capitalize on. What are the gaps between that vision and reality? What programs, buildings, and relationships need to exist to bring that vision to life? Use all of this information to set around five goals using the SMART goal framework. SMART goals are:


Instead of goals like “increase summer campers or create an adult retreat program,” a SMART goal would be “increase summer camp registrations by 20% every year for the next 5 years” or “develop a biannual adult retreat program with at least 40 participants in the next five years.”

Just like you have set a vision that describes exactly what success looks like, your goals should also define success. At the end of your strategic planning timeline, it should be clear whether your goals were achieved or not. This is where people start to get nervous. Try not to dwell on fear of failure here! Work to set reasonable goals, but if some of your goals aren’t reached, allow it to provide some important reflection points for the next planning period.

When you have chosen your goals, rate the organization’s current level of success at each goal. Keep in mind that the things you want to focus on may be extensions of projects you are already doing; successful plans don’t necessarily have all goals that start from scratch. Looking at your ratings will be helpful in the next section of evaluating how your current activities align to your goals and which activities or programs may need to be added to achieve success.

Current and Future Strategic Programs

Look at all the current programs your camp does and evaluate those against your goals. Beside each program, mark down which goals that program aligns to. This way, you can easily see which goals you are working toward and which goals will require new programming to achieve. What programs do you need to add or tweak, so you are actively working on toward all your goals? Brainstorm a list of programs that would move the needle on the goals that most need to be worked on.

When you’ve done the brainstorming, it’s time to narrow down by selecting which goals each program aligns to AND adding a timeline to each activity.When do you intend to accomplish this? Which things can you feasibly add this year, next year and so on? Sometimes we get excited about the possibilities on the list and have a tendency to want to start on all of them immediately. Don’t do this. You will overwhelm yourself; spread things out. Mark which year you want to start on each goal, so you have accountability and something to review later.

With SMART goals set, programs evaluated for alignment and new opportunities on the schedule for the next few years, you know exactly who you want to become as an organization. Now that we have a plan, in the next section we will figure out how to accomplish all of these new things. What resources will we need, and how will we procure them? Stay tuned!

Bringing all parties together to go through the steps of a strategic plan is hard to do, especially if you are inside the organization. The best strategic plans allow the stakeholders to be stakeholders without also being facilitators. If your organization is ready to pursue a strategic plan, allow Cabin 9 Consulting to serve your organization by facilitating conversations, asking the right questions and putting together all your hopes for your vision into something we can accomplish together. Contact us! We would be honored to work with you.

Strategic Plan Section 1: Who We Are

A strategic plan is a guiding document of an organization that determines its goals and values, aligns programming to vision, and informs decisions on a regular basis.

A comprehensive plan has several detailed parts and can seem like an overwhelming task to create. However, all those parts make up three main sections: who we are, where we are going and how we will get there. This post will cover an in-depth guide to developing the first section. For an overview of the three parts, read Strategic Plans and Why You Need One.

Before Getting Started

The first step to designing a strategic plan is to get the right people in the room. Your planning committee will be the key to creating a thoughtful and attainable plan. It’s important to get enough voices in the room to be representative, but keep it small enough that you will be able to accomplish the work in a timely manner. Choose key permanent staff people, one person from each committee that serves on your board (or a few board members with different skills and perspectives if you do not operate by committee), and a few more representatives such as a summer staff member, a dedicated volunteer, etc.

With the right people in mind, determine the timeline of this plan. Will this vision guide your organization for three years? Five years? A clear timeline from the beginning will help ensure realistic goalsetting.

Organizational History

The strategic plan serves as a one-stop shop for the basic, governing information about your organization. An organizational history statement allows your committee and other stakeholders to build on the foundation of where you began. How, when and by whom did this place start? What are the characteristics, traditions, bits of culture that have been passed down since the beginning? What are some milestones in your camp’s history that you are proud of? Write it down, and make it page one of the plan. This piece can be done in advance and can be approved by the committee.

Vision Statement

A vision statement answers the question “why does this organization exist?” It is aspirational and future-oriented. In one or two sentences, it illustrates the picture of success for your organization. Some, like the examples below, are just a few words about what they want the world to look like because of their work.

Feeding America | A hunger-free America

Habitat for Humanity | A world where everyone has a decent place to live

Mission Statement

Your mission statement should reflect the day-to-day work your organization does that moves the world closer to the picture your vision statement describes. It is simple, inspiring, specific and relevant long-term, and it communicates the purpose and value the organization adds to the world.

Feeding America | To feed America’s hungry through a nationwide network of member food banks and engage our country in the fight to end hunger. 

Habitat for Humanity International | Seeking to put God’s love into action, Habitat for Humanity brings people together to build homes, communities and hope.

The vision and mission statements are foundational to every part of this plan moving forward. Spend time with your team workshopping these statements. Everything you do from here will align to these statements.

Core Values or Statements

Core values are the pillars of your organization. They help inform your organizational culture. What are you about? What are your identifying characteristics? What qualities do you expect of your service, your staff and your campers?Well-known values establish where to invest resources of time, money, staff, equipment.

Brainstorm a list of around ten that come easily to you and your team. Choose three to five that align to your mission and vision statements, so that these can be something you and your staff can easily name.

How are you going to incorporate these in staff training, board orientation, and marketing materials? Every piece of this plan is meant for you to sit down with your organization and put on paper who you are, so it can inform where you’re going.

SWOT Analysis

A SWOT analysis identifies an organization’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. When brainstorming for future programs that will help your organization reach your goals, capitalize on the strengths and opportunities. As a committee, brainstorm solutions to weaknesses and threats. How might they be minimized? Could a weakness become a strength if you had more training or the right equipment? Could a threat become an opportunity if you marketed your camp differently, added transportation, or changed the registration process? You may not have any effect on the external threat itself but businesses (and non-profits) are successful because they are able to navigate the pitfalls of the market.

With these parts firmly in place, you have put down on paper exactly who you are. This foundation will enable you to begin confidently envisioning the future of your organization, determining what needs to be built or created to move one step closer to the aspirational vision you and your team set.

What is a Strategic Plan and Why You Need One

Do you spend a lot of time being reactive instead of proactive? Does your board or leadership have trouble communicating the goals of your organization? Do well-meaning supporters suggest programming that doesn’t fit, but rejecting their idea puts you in a sticky spot?

You need a strategic plan.

A strategic plan is the guiding document of an organization that communicates who you are, who you want to become, and how to get there. It determines the goals and values of your organization, aligns your programming to your vision, and informs your decisions on a regular basis.

A strategic plan is a decision making and resource allocation tool. The planning process will focus all key stakeholders on a unified vision. Without charting the course together, either hard-working board members will develop their own vision that may not fit with the mission, or they will become disengaged and complacent.

A vision for the future changes the way we think about allocating resources. As camps and retreat ministries, we all face limited time and money, and we make the best decisions we can with what we have. A strategic plan enables us make those decisions more strategically, keeping the goals and vision in mind.

Thinking about creating a strategic plan may sound daunting, but this work is meant to be done over time with the help of a board committee. I like to break the work into these three more manageable sections.

Who We Are

A strategic plan starts with a one-page organizational history statement or timeline, followed by vision statement, mission statement, core values, and a SWOT analysis.

A great vision statement is aspirational and future-oriented. In one or two sentences, it illustrates your organization’s picture of success. A mission statement reflects the day-to-day work your organization does that moves the world closer to achieving the vision. Once these two statements are written, determine three to five core values that serve as culture pillars for the organization and represent the characteristics needed to fulfill the vision and mission.

A SWOT analysis evaluates the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats of an organization. A great organization capitalizes on its strengths and opportunities and actively works to minimize weaknesses and threats.

Who We Want to Become

The second part uses this foundational work to set SMART goals, evaluate current programs, brainstorm future programs to consider, and create an organizational chart and succession plan.

Work together to set three to five SMART goals for the next five years. Which programs move your organization closer to achieving which goals? You may find that some activities do not align at all, and you may discover goals which no current programming supports. This exercise may present a need to retire programs no longer useful to the vision. For goals lacking program support, brainstorm additions or tweaks to existing activities that will move the organization closer to success. For each addition, determine the year you will begin work on that project. Agreeing on a timeline will increase the likelihood of achieving success.

With goals and potential program additions in mind, prepare an organizational chart and succession plan for leadership, so the vision can move forward even with unforeseen personnel changes. Think about any additional personnel needed to be successful.

How We Will Get There

A strategic plan often requires additional funding, updates to facilities, new equipment, and perhaps additional staff.

Conduct a facilities and equipment evaluation to determine major funding needs for the next five years. Estimate the cost of these needs, their priority, and the year the board will address them.

By the end of this planning process, your organization will have snapshots of the new programs, facility needs, equipment upgrades, and personnel changes for each of the next five years. This snapshot will show the approximate annual cost of bringing this vision to life that will enable a discussion on how to fund this plan.

The final part of the document is an evaluation plan. In order to ensure this work regularly informs decisions, this section determines who is responsible for progress updates and the frequency with which the board will revisit the strategic plan.

Putting it All Together

After doing the work to make the decisions lined out in these sections, it is time to present the strategic plan as one cohesive document to the board for approval!

Still overwhelmed?

Don’t worry! A new series that will break down these three sections in more detail is coming soon to the blog.

Facilitating a discussion about the future and leading the vision while participating in the process is complicated to do by yourself. If strategic planning is the next step to moving your organization forward, feel free to email me to chat about I can help bring your vision to life.