Lesson 2 Creation of a fundraising plan

Start the planning process by reviewing your history. Specifically, review your activities and numbers from the last year. What worked? What didn’t? What did it cost you to raise money in terms of expenses and time?

  • How much did you raise last year? List your fundraising activities and their outcomes.
  • What were your biggest successes? Look at where you made an impact and the accomplishments you’re proud of.
  • What were your biggest challenges? Reflect on what didn’t go as planned or where you want to focus more attention, time, or resources. This could be specific improvements to ongoing initiatives, like meeting with prospective major donors more frequently, or entirely new goals, such as launching a recurring giving program.

Be realistic about resources in terms of availability and limitations.  Most organizations will start this process by taking a look at their:

  • Budget. How much does your nonprofit have to spend on fundraising? Are there restrictions you have to consider, such as grant stipulations, bequests, and donations given to specific campaigns?
  • Staff. Consider your staff’s time and expertise when planning your fundraising strategy. If you want to launch a new fundraising program, do you have the staff on hand to run it? Will you need to recruit volunteers or invest in training opportunities?
  • Technology. What technology does your nonprofit currently have and are you in need of an upgrade? Assess if your current platforms are still scaling with your efforts or if it’s time to invest in a new software solution.

By taking inventory of your current resources you will make your goals more realistic and ensure all of your resources are leveraged to maximum effect.

Donor acquisition. To expand, your nonprofit will need to recruit new donors. To attract new donors, try launching a new marketing strategy, expanding to different marketing channels, hosting a peer-to-peer campaign, partnering with other organizations, and hosting events that are open to your local community.

Donor retention. It’s far more cost effective to retain your current donors than replace them with new ones. You can retain your donors through activities such as personalizing communication, collecting and implementing donor feedback, and suggesting options to make recurring giving easy.

Upgrading current donors. Each of your donors will increase in value over time, but only if you ask them to consider increasing their donation amount. Activities that can help you upgrade your current donors include creating a membership program, starting a planned giving program, conducting prospect research, and generally improving the donor experience.

After analyzing where your nonprofit currently is fundraising-wise, it’s time to establish some solid goals. Here are a few components to consider when setting new goals:

  • Money raised. What is your total annual fundraising? Base this year’s goal on your total raised last year.
  • New donors. How many total donors do you have? Compared to last year, how many do you think you can practically attain this year?
  • Recurring gifts. Has your nonprofit developed a recurring gift program? What can you do to get more donors enrolled in it?
  • Board participation. How much has your board contributed to hitting your donation and supporter acquisition goals? What can you do to encourage them to do more?

The great thing about this process is that it gets everyone on the same page about your priorities and ensures they understand potential impacts if you change course or don’t reach a goal.

After establishing your goals, determine what specific activities you can take to accomplish them. When implementing any new activity or program, consider how it fits into your overarching strategy.

For example, if you want to find new donors, you may decide to expand your online outreach. This goal can be broken down even further into specific online activities.  If you’re just getting started in online giving, making your donation pages mobile-friendly and branded should definitely top your list.

A fundraising plan feels a lot more doable when you map out the work over time. Set deadlines—think of them as mileposts where you can gauge your success. Use whatever tool works best for you: paper calendar, Excel spreadsheet, an online tool that syncs with other things, or a downloadable template.

Start with existing commitments—events, board meetings, grant deadlines, staff vacations—and put them in the calendar.

Here are a few strategies nonprofits often implement to ensure they stay on track and fulfill their fundraising plan:

  • Create an accountability system. To ensure everyone follows through with their tasks, determine how you will assign specific projects and check in on them. For example, you may partner up team members or use your project management tool to assign each task to a specific person.
  • Block out time for high priority tasks. Determine your highest priority tasks and set aside time to see them through to completion. For example, you might create a specific time dedicated to calling donors and checking in with major giving prospects.
  • Hold regular team check-ins. Meeting with staff will provide opportunities to ensure everyone is on track, share information, and make plans to unblock anyone who may be stuck on a project.

When your team does succeed, make sure to let them know and celebrate. If your team falls short, take the time to assess what could have been done better and make a concrete plan for how you’ll approach that goal in the future.