A checklist for strategy success


Strategy Landscape

At AskRIGHT, we love working with clients to build a strong fundraising strategy, helping the causes you love raise more money and ultimately make a bigger difference in the world. Strategy development is one of the core areas we work, whether we’re facilitating strategy workshops, interviewing stakeholders to ensure their voices are heard in the development process, or assessing the resources required to deliver a brilliant piece of work.

A good strategy sets out a series of actions that are delivered to help reach a long-term vision. In the fundraising world, our strategies are there to raise more money to deliver impact in the not-for-profit sector.

If you’re currently building or reviewing a fundraising strategy, what are the key steps to take to ensure your team has the right goals agreed, and the action plan is ready to go? How do you ensure that your strategy will continue to be relevant and effective as you and your team begin delivering it?

Our helpful checklist gives you the pointers to interrogate your fundraising strategy and ensure you can tick all the boxes for future success.

Six checks to ensuring strategy success

Our six checks to ensuring strategy success can help make sure your strategy is robust and designed to be delivered as effectively as possible:

Check one: What is the opportunity or what is the problem you’re trying to solve?

The starting point for any strategy should be what you are trying to achieve or what problem you are trying to solve. Is it stepping into a market opportunity for a new income stream? Or trying to manage a shortfall by diversifying your fundraising channels? If you get to the end of your strategy process and you can’t answer this simple question, then you may need to step back and ensure you have enough clarity. Answering this question helps to craft your vision – what will be different if you can make this difference?

As well as asking what you’re doing this for, it’s important to understand ‘why us’? Why is your organisation or team best placed to deliver this? What is the impact going to be for others? This helps link the vision of your strategy to the mission of the cause. These are the essential building blocks to form the foundation of your strategy.

Check two: what goals do you need to achieve to reach your vision?

Understanding your vision helps set the end target for where your strategy needs to aim. The goals that sit beneath this tell you the how. This is not an exhaustive list of actions but an overarching set of goals to guide your activity. Try to aim for no more than four-six key goals to help keep your team focused and make sure the strategy is clearly defined.

Ensuring your goals are SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timebound) will create parameters for success and make sure they are going to drive your team forward to deliver the strategic vision.

Check three: analysing how you are currently performing and where there is room for improvement

Before diving into a strategy, it’s important to review and research where you currently sit in the market and how your existing operations are performing. Even if this is a brand new ‘from scratch’ strategy, it’s important to undergo this step and understand what you do well and your opportunities on the one side, and where you could improve and any challenges on the other.

One simple tool is to undertake a SWOT analysis – this involves plotting your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats and using these to understand what actions your strategy may need to take to be effective. If there are broader factors to consider, then a PEST analysis can help, looking at the Political, Economic, Social and Technological factors at play.

Another helpful tool, if you already have a series of fundraising streams and products that you use, is to review them using a Boston Matrix. And don’t forget to listen to the voice of the stakeholder during your research and review stage to understand the point of view of those who know your organisation best.

Check four: from vision to action

“Strategy is important, but execution is key.” – Jack Welch

When designing a strategy, it’s important to include an action plan so that it doesn’t just remain a piece of paper with a theory of how to achieve the vision. The power of the strategy comes with its implementation and the ability to deliver the impact required. The success of any strategy is in the doing.

Keep the action plan top line – this isn’t your team’s to do list, but an outline of what is going to happen and when. These actions should fall from your goals to ensure they ladder up to the vision.

Check five: do you have your resources in place?

Resourcing is what helps draw from the detail of the action plan to keep the strategy embedded in reality. The vision and mission part of the plan are such positive and open stages where you really want to ask what is possible. Goals add to the clarity of what needs to be achieved. An action plan is the roadmap to delivery. Resourcing allows you to show what is doable.

This is a chance to look at the capacity and skills of the team and work out whether the roles you have can cover the workload required or if you need to recruit new staff members. There may be a need to look at your database, current materials, key roles and budget to be able to allocate the right amount of resource to take the plan to market.

Check six: are we measuring and monitoring the right things to track performance?

To ensure you will be able to report back on all your great work, don’t forget to set your reporting requirements so you can monitor what you’re delivering, measure your results, and start to build a narrative of how your strategy is working.

When you begin delivering work, the results and measures agreed in the strategy show how you’re performing. Any critical conversation about the impact of strategy needs to be evidence based, and your results will be able to give you great feedback on whether you are heading in the right direction or if you need to course correct. It also creates the space to celebrate success when you begin seeing the results of the strategy in action.

Taking the leap to delivery

Once your strategy has ticked all the check boxes and is ready to deliver, getting started can sometimes be the hardest part. It can feel like a leap of faith to take your strategy off the page and into action, but the best way to do this is to jump right in. Pick something from the action plan that you’re excited about and work out what you need to do to begin implementing it. Perhaps it’s picking up the phone and calling a supporter, or writing a piece of copy for your first email mailing. Whatever it is, set yourself a goal to simply do it and then check in afterwards how it went.

Your strategy should be a living, breathing thing. If it is met with complacency or seems an insurmountable task to deliver, then all the hard work designing the plan will be wasted. Creating a strategy shouldn’t be a goal unto itself – instead, it is the first step in your pathway to delivery.