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5 Steps to Communicate a Shift in Your Strategic Plan to Your Donors

Picture this. Your organizational goals are defined, and you have a Strategic Plan to guide your efforts. All the proper planning is in place to motivate donors with your vision of long-term impact.

Now in a post-pandemic world of supply chain issues, employment shortages, and inflation, the landscape is drastically different. And due to the changing world we’re all experiencing, some of your organization’s strategic plan goals must shift if your work is to remain relevant, and more financial resources are needed

This is an example of a common situation facing many nonprofit leaders in today’s environment: How do you communicate a shift in your Strategic Plan to your donors?

A Strategic Plan isn’t meant to be prescriptive. It’s a framework that should have the flexibility to adjust to meet your goals. While a Strategic Plan does consider the current environment in which it’s written, it is reasonable (and smart!) to update your Strategic Plan if there is a major shift in your goals, your community, or the world (like, a pandemic!). Using a Plan written for a different situation isn’t to your benefit, or the benefit of those you serve.

But communicating an adjustment of your Strategic Plan to your donors takes some finesse since they already “bought” into your original plan. There are three major pitfalls to avoid:

  1. Your donor feels like you aren’t using their donation as they intended.

  2. Your donor feels like you’re crying wolf and always in a crisis.

  3. Your donor feels like you were short-sighted in asking for a gift that will now be redirected.

Remember, your donor believes in your mission and what you’re trying to accomplish. That’s why they’re sharing their resources with you. If you’re in a position where you need to communicate a change in your Plan with your donors, keep these 5 tips in mind:

  1. Show how the pivot supports your overarching goal. Your nonprofit likely has many ways of feeding the hungry, getting kids to love the arts, or rehabilitating abuse survivors. When communicating a change in your strategy, show the donor how the change supports your ultimate mission. Your donor cares more about what you accomplish than how you accomplish it.

  2. Communicate as appropriate to the donor’s investment. A major gift donor may need a personalized call from their Gift Officer. However, you can likely communicate changes to your annual fund donors through an email or a mailed newsletter.

  3. Don’t forget to say thank you. Use this touchpoint as an opportunity to steward your donors and show authentic gratitude for their continued partnership.

  4. Respond to questions, comments, and concerns. Anytime your nonprofit makes a change, you can expect feedback, both positive and negative. Give your staff talking points so they will be prepared to speak with your supporters on the phone, online, and in-person. Make sure to respond to all feedback — the good and the bad. In fact, responding to negative feedback from a donor can even deepen their relationship with your charity.

  5. Remember that the donor has lived through this pandemic too. Your donors are adjusting to changes in the way they do business, travel, and even buy groceries. You can expect them to be extra gracious when you communicate pivots in your strategic plan.

This topic is top of mind for many of Arthur Alley’s clients, who want to do right by their donors, and also do right by the communities they serve.

If you need help adjusting your Strategic Plan, communicating those changes to donors, or even writing your first Strategic Plan, please reach out for a free 30 minute consultation. The seasoned nonprofit professionals at Arthur Alley are here to make sure your mission thrives.


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