Are you ready… for the back-to-school frenzy?

Louis St-Cyr – Vice-president KCI Montréal

Each year, the back-to-school activities of early September bring about a new and unique kind of energy, not usually experienced at any other time of the year.  Such frenzy can allow us to step back and dedicate this turnkey part of our professional calendars to the more complex tasks at hand.  After a summer filled with fundraising activities, golf tournaments and vacation time, September and October can offer a well-deserved respite.  These two months are a perfect interlude – between summer’s activities and the equally intense post-Halloween campaigns – in which to elaborate a positioning plan for a non-profit organization.

It all boils down to a simple question …are you ready?  When you think about it, is there a time of year in which our staff, volunteers and partners are more rested, in better spirits, more inclined to pick up the slack and advance our objectives?  The answer is simple, so why not make the most of the back-to-school period to lay out your objectives and development plan?

At KCI, we approach the creation of a development plan using the following principles.  Our method allows us to anchor the mission, vision and values held by the organizations we work with.  To sum up our approach, three seemingly simple questions must be addressed: WHOWHAT and HOW.


WHO are your organization’s current and potential donors?

Your organization must establish which markets it can realistically access.  A strategic and targeted approach will benefit your results directly.  You must therefore optimize your potential by analyzing and prioritizing your target markets.  This exercise will also reveal potential ways to improve your presence and increase your share in certain key markets.  It will also reveal which markets present new development opportunities.

WHO shares the philanthropic space with you?  Are your target markets solicited by other fundraising projects in your field?

It is important that you find out if other projects are competing with yours.  If they are, you must be creative; find a differentiating element in your project and make the most of it.

In conclusion, the “WHO” analysis of your competition should allow you to determine whether your professional and volunteer resources are sufficient to establish and fulfill your objectives consistently and professionally. 


To begin, you must accurately situate your organization within the current philanthropic space.

  • Are you mission and vision statements reflective of your reality?
  • Is your positioning clear and optimal?
  • What are your priorities? What is your fundraising pull (ability to raise funds)?
  • Are your priorities communicated in a goal-oriented manner?


How do your fundraising strategies connect you to potential donors?
How do your communications initiatives uphold your programs?  What messaging do you have in mind for each target group?  How will you reach out?  Just as importantly, how often will you reach out?

A 2012 survey held by Ipsos Reid for the AFP found that donors have set preferences: 79% of them want to be informed of your progress, success stories, and most importantly, of how their contributions impact those success stories.  However, 62% say they would like to be solicited less often…

To conclude, this exercise should provide the basic elements needed to structure and enact all of your philanthropic endeavours.  A typical development plan covers three years and must be flexible to allow for rapid adjustments to the unpredictable situations and unplanned events all organizations must deal with.  Most importantly, the plan must be shared, evaluated periodically and used daily by all stakeholders in a collaboration perspective.

Your organization must remain curious and well informed; take notice of good practices in your area  and pay attention to new trends.  Take the time to reflect upon the type and quality of relations you hold with donors.  Make sure their experience is positive, professional, well tailored and meets their expectations.  Communicate with them less often but more effectively – at the appropriate time, using the appropriate medium and poignant messaging!  Stand out by maintaining a high level of professionalism is your activities.

The philanthropic sector is becoming more professional each year and organizations that take the time to create realistic strategies and measure the impact of these strategies will stand out and maintain the upper hand in creating lasting relationship with all of their collaborators.

Make the most of the back-to-school frenzy to plan your WHO, your WHAT and your HOW; use this energetic and creative time of the year to empower your closest collaborators with these strategic projects.  They will help you achieve optimal results.

Have a great start to the school year!
Louis St-Cyr – Vice-president KCI Montréal