How to plan your way to fundraising success
Posted January 5, 2017 by Virginia Davidson

The concept of a fundraising plan can seem daunting, especially if you’re new to fundraising or you’re fundraising for a small organization. The reality is that having a pre-planned strategy lan will be an asset to you as you fundraise throughout the year, no matter how large or small your organization is. Once you have a fundraising plan as a guide, you’ll be more effective with your work. And, you might even find that it’s fun to put together!

Why is it so important for a fundraiser to have a plan? It  tells you what you need to do, why you need to do it, and how it will get done. The reverse is true, too—if you don’t have a plan, it’s not clear what you need to do, why you need to do it, and how it will be accomplished. Sure, you have an overall sense of the tasks and goals of your job, but having those tasks and goals swirling around in your head will likely lead to stress, disorganization, and missed opportunities. And, you might fall short of your fundraising goals.

You can avoid these pitfalls by making a plan for fundraising success! Gail Perry asserts that a fundraising plan helps you determine how to spend your time and money, keeps you out of crisis mode, enables you to be proactive instead of reactive, AND helps you raise more money for your organization. Exactly what you need, right?

Here’s how to get started creating a simple fundraising plan: 

Plan for the future by looking backward. It’s essential that you have a strong grasp of your fundraising operations in order to create an effective fundraising plan. Spend some time determining what is working well in your development office and what isn’t:

  • Maybe your annual fund was a great success last year, but your membership program is limping along.
  • What are the strengths and weaknesses of your operation? Do you have a strong number of donors who make small gifts, but you’re lacking major donors?
  • Perhaps you’ve done a great job of raising awareness in the community and bringing in first-time donors, but your organization lacks a donor management system to help you steward and retain these donors.
  • Consider which efforts are bringing in the most net revenue for your organization. Are there some events that require a great deal of time but don’t bring in much money?

Once you’ve run through this exercise and jotted your findings down, you can move on to these questions:

What amount of money do you need to raise?
Why do you need raise it? What programs or operations will be funded, and what amount of money is needed for each?
How will you raise it? List the fundraising activities you will implement to reach your financial goal, such as:

  • Annual fund
  • Grants
  • Earned income/fee for service
  • Planned giving
  • Fundraising events

Consider the following for each of the activities on your list:

How will this activity help you reach your fundraising goal? If it’s an activity you’ve implemented in the past, how much money did it raise in prior years? Will this activity help you retain existing donors? If so, how? Will it help you attract new donors? If so, how?

It’s crucial for your organization to retain donors and attract new donors. If you’ve listed an activity and can’t think of how it will help you attract or retain donors, you may want to reconsider it.

Next, create a plan of action for these activities. This plan will list each activity, when it will happen, who is responsible, the amount you’re aiming to raise, other goals associated with the activity (such as recapturing a certain number of lapsed donors), your strategies, resources, and tools. Here’s an example of what that could look like:

You can set up your plan so it’s as simple or as sophisticated as you want it to be. The important thing is that it works for you.

If you need ideas to get started on your planning process, a quick internet search will find some great resources and templates that you can use as a starting point. Some of our favorites include:

Once your plan is in place, it’s important that you use it! Refer back to it often so you can gauge how things are progressing. If one activity fell short of its financial goal, adjust the plan accordingly. Your plan is not set in stone—you can, and should, make any changes to it as needed.

Have your fundraising plan at your fingertips to keep you focused, help you prioritize your work, and guide your way to fundraising success!

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