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Definition of Development Planning

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Development planning happens in many different contexts so to define it succinctly is tricky. Basically development planning refers to the strategic measurable goals that a person, organization or community plans to meet within a certain amount of time. Usually the development plan includes time-based benchmarks. It generally also includes the criteria that will be used to evaluate whether or not the goals were actually met.

Nonprofit Development Planning

Development has a particular meaning for nonprofit organizations such as universities and charitable groups. In this context, development planning refers to all of the various activities related to fund raising: grant writing, donor relations, capital campaigns, annual fund drives and fund-raising events . The larger the organization, the more likely it is to employ a development officer who may be responsible for a whole department devoted to development. In short, the development officer elicits and coordinates the donated revenues that make up a large portion of any nonprofit budget. Development planning for a nonprofit organization means to set calendar milestones for the fund-raising goals and then figure out what activities must be done to achieve them.

Personal Development Planning

Many employers ask their employees to write down their personal goals in a formal process that they call personal development planning. One person may write a development plan that is focused on advancing her career through additional education. Another person's development plan may involve planning for retirement, while still another person's development plan might include losing a specific amount of weight or starting a program of exercise. Usually some of the personal development plan goals have to relate to the job itself, but progressive companies like Monsanto, for example, encourage the employees to set targets that are specifically meaningful to the individual. The personal development plan may become part of a company's annual review process.

Individual Development Planning

Post doctoral fellows use a development planning process to organize their plan of study into a document called the Individual Development Plan, or IDP. This provides a mechanism for the fellow to assess himself. Then he has a set of written goals for future growth or achievement based on a time line for which, according to the plan, he is held accountable by a mentor.

Professional Development Planning

Several states including Missouri and Wisconsin require state certified teachers to create a professional development plan. This document is a permanent part of the teacher's personnel file. In it, teachers write goals related to their career, about what they intend to do to become more effective in the classroom, and about how they will fulfill the requirements to obtain continuing education credits. Teachers who fail to produce a professional development plan on time may risk losing their teacher certification in the states which require one. The school principals or district supervisors hold teachers accountable for the goals in the development plan.

Urban Development

Development planning also happens in cities and communities. Urban communities with a lot of vacant buildings may decide to engage in a development planning process to plan how to revitalize an area. This is a necessary step in order to qualify for state tax credits and federal and other funds that will allow the renovations to happen. From architects, to city planners, engineers, investors and residents, everyone who will be involved in the actual development should be part of the development planning process.


Lesley Barker, director of the Bolduc House Museum, authored the books "St. Louis Gateway Rail—The 1970s," published by Arcadia, and the "Eye Can Too! Read" series of vision-related e-books. Her articles have appeared in print and online since the 1980s. Barker holds a Bachelor of Arts in sociology from Washington University and a Master of Arts in Teaching from Webster University.

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