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Get Ready. Get Set. Plan!

Get Ready. Get Set. Plan!

January 14, 2016
Kathy Gaston

I have become a huge advocate for the planning process. But it wasn’t always that way.

In my previous job as a development director, I felt that I knew our constituency better than any consultant coming in to help with a campaign. (This seems to be a common theme with many development directors.) Our organization knew what we wanted to build, and I knew all the donors and wanted to jump right in with a campaign instead of “wasting time” on a feasibility study.

Luckily, Jeff Jowdy talked me out of my incorrect assumptions and we proceeded with a feasibility study. During the study, we not only uncovered new donors — but we found support for an additional project that we had not anticipated building.

The planning process not only shows an organization where it has support, but it is essential to the success of any campaign. The information gleaned in a properly done study reflects positively on the organization and allows issues to be addressed that might have hindered a successful outcome.

As your organization’s leader, here are some reasons to insist on a feasibility study:

  • The planning process helps to connect with your best advocates and supporters. As they are interviewed and asked for their views on your organization, it helps to plant the seeds for the future.
  • You will see your organization as your donors see it — all of its positives and all of its warts. This gives you a wonderful opportunity to make changes that will move your efforts forward.
  • Only with proper planning will you be able to meet your goals. The worst thing that can happen in a campaign is for it to stall for lack of support. Proper planning will help to avoid those costly mistakes.
  • And finally, you can plan a wonderful celebration that showcases your success and the achievements of your organization.
  • I love the whole process, and the rewards are outstanding. So get started and move your organization forward in 2016!


    Kathy Gaston

    Kathy joined Lighthouse Counsel after 20 years as director of development at The Oak Hill School in Nashville, where she led two successful capital campaigns. She also directed all volunteer activities and shepherded an annual fund campaign that achieved 100 percent parent participation. Kathy is founder of the Nashville Area Development Directors Association, has served on a number of nonprofit boards. She served as board chair for the Eating Disorders Coalition of Tennessee and Lung Association of Tennessee. She has also served as president of Nashville Bar Auxiliary and chair of Lamar Alexander’s Inaugural Ball. She is a popular presenter and received the Circle of Excellence Award from the Council for Advancement and Support of Education for overall improvement in educational fundraising. Kathy holds a bachelor of science degree in education from the University of North Georgia. Kathy’s favorite quote: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” (Maya Angelou)