Article

Nonprofit Fundraising Plan: 13 Must-Do Steps for Success

Gia Chow
Gia Chow

A nonprofit fundraising plan is a guiding document designed to help you raise the money you need to achieve your goals.

It breaks down your organization’s vision into actionable, highly-specific steps for success.

It doesn’t matter if you are running a multi-million dollar nonprofit organization or are a small start-up: the key to financial success is a well-thought-out fundraising plan. Don’t set yourself up for failure by just ‘winging’ the fundraising process.

Instead, get your team together (or go solo if it’s only you) and get to work on creating your nonprofit fundraising plan.

What Is A Nonprofit Fundraising Plan?

A nonprofit fundraising plan is a document that strategically organizes all of your fundraising activities over a certain period of time (usually one year). These strategic plans chart out campaign dates and strategies, donor-tracking and retention plans, special event details, and a targeted communication schedule.

In addition to being strategic, you want to make sure that your fundraising plan is flexible enough to accommodate changes as they arise. If your fundraising plan is rigid and formulaic, chances are, you’ll miss out on some great opportunities. The key is to have an adaptable fundraising strategy with set goals that will also allow you to respond to unexpected challenges. We know this all too well – after all, the pandemic certainly threw a wrench in even the best-laid plans.

Before we dive in on how to create your own nonprofit fundraising plan, I want to go over a couple of questions you might be asking.

What is Strategic Fundraising?

I mentioned strategic fundraising earlier but what is it exactly? Strategic fundraising refers to moving your organization’s mission forward by honing in on what you do best. It involves the buy-in of multiple stakeholders such as your staff and board members, and maps out a path forward as you raise funds. 

A strategic fundraising plan is intended to keep you on track toward your fundraising goals by using your organization’s resources as effectively and efficiently as possible while keeping aligned with your overall mission and vision.

How Does a Nonprofit Fundraising Plan Differ From Other Fundraising Plans?

A nonprofit fundraising plan organizes your fundraising activities over the course of a year. You may have other fundraising plans that detail the fundraising campaigns and activities included within your overall plan.

Download a free fundraising plan template:

Why do you need a fundraising strategy?

First and foremost, fundraising plans get everyone – staff, volunteers, board members, and potential donors – focused and on-track to hitting your goals throughout the year. With a set plan in place, you can ensure that everyone is on the same page and won’t lose sight of priorities along the way. It should give your team a clear idea of what will be expected of them as well as the anticipated results.

These documents are also essential in shifting an entire organization’s attitude about fundraising. Let’s face it, fundraising is oftentimes reactionary. Problems such as an economic downturn or changes in federal funding can arise at any time.

A better way forward is to have fundraising goals, which then dictate your fundraising efforts and fundraising strategy.

A fundraising plan should provide a clear course of action from diversified funding streams, leaving everyone with a little less stress on their plate when problems do pop up.

It all boils down to the fact that when you are in the thick of an underperforming capital campaign, you are much more likely to come out on top if you have a plan in place to tackle the issues.

Are you ready to create a great fundraising plan? There’s no time like the present to get started. Follow these 13 must-do steps to ensure your fundraising plan is ready.

How To Write A Successful Fundraising Plan

1. Reflect on Your Past Finances

Before you start putting together a fundraising plan for the upcoming year, it’s best to look at last year’s finances. At minimum, take a note of your total revenue and expenses. What’s going to carry over to this year? Which fundraising initiatives were successful? Which ones didn’t go as planned and either need more attention or should be scrapped altogether? Should more funds be allocated towards a certain initiative over another? Will new staff be brought on?

If you maintain a donor database or other CRM, you’ll be able to access this data quickly. If that data isn’t available or you are a start-up, look at your estimated budget or check out the stats of similar organizations.By reflecting on your past finances, you’ll be better equipped to create targeted fundraising goals going forward.

2. Define Your Vision

Any successful fundraising plan will have a vision. A vision statement acts as an anchor for your organization but outlines the direction going forward.

There’s only so many hours in a day, and only so many days in a year. Being able to articulate your organization’s vision allows you to strategically set priorities rather than attempting to tackle everything all at once. It lets your staff and your donors know the direction of where your organization is going and how you’re planning to get there. Keeping your vision statement top-of-mind as you’re creating your fundraising plan leaves little room to get sidetracked along the way.

3. Consider New Trends for Your Fundraising Plan

Through the pandemic, nonprofits have demonstrated their resiliency by rolling with the punches and reimagining the way they market their fundraising. It’s no surprise that how we market and fundraise is constantly changing, especially with new technology. 

Keeping up to date with emerging fundraising trends can help you market and engage more effectively and efficiently. Here are a few new marketing trends worth considering when putting together your fundraising plan:

Influencer Marketing

Does the adage “people donate to people who they trust” sound familiar? That’s because it’s so true! With 49% of consumers depending on influencer recommendations, influencers are here to stay.

Teaming up with a celebrity or a public figure to amplify your reach isn’t a new concept but social media has created all sorts of opportunities for specific niches of influencer marketing. These days, influencers can be any popular figure or subject matter expert with a significant online following. They can be local celebrities, board members, or politicians eager to advocate for your cause. There’s also varying levels of influencers but they generally fall into one of two buckets: 

  • Macro influencers – larger reach (100K+ following)
  • Micro influencers – smaller reach (10K-100K following)

There’s benefits of leveraging both but it certainly depends on your budget. Macro influencers obviously have a wider reach which is helpful for growing brand awareness. On the other hand, micro influencers may have fewer followers compared to their macro counterparts but they tend to have higher engagement due to being closer with their audience.

If you’re in the beginning stages of influencer marketing, know that it’ll take time, effort, and research. However, when you find the right person to endorse your cause, they’re enhancing your credibility by putting you front and center of an audience that already trusts them too. 

Video Marketing

In today’s digital world, nonprofits and charities should consider investing in video and visual storytelling as a key fundraising tool.

Over the past decade video marketing has only grown in popularity. With more and more smartphone users, people are spending an average of 19 hours a week watching videos online. When it comes to fundraising, 80% of the highest-grossing campaigns on CauseVox have used video as part of their campaign. In fact, 57% of people who watch nonprofit videos go on to make a donation.

Without a doubt, an impactful nonprofit video is one of the most effective tools in your belt for rallying support. I’m referring to those videos that showcase the remarkable journey from trial to triumph of an individual or group.

The best thing about video marketing is that it doesn’t have to be a full-scale production especially if you have limited marketing dollars. These days, shooting high-quality videos doesn’t have to cost an arm and leg. Short-form videos on TikTok and Instagram Reels are extremely popular ways to connect with your audience. All you need is a smartphone and good lighting to get started!

SEO

SEO… you’ve likely heard this acronym tossed around but what is it exactly?

Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, is another way to target your audience and expand your reach organically. How search engines work can seem like a mystery but SEO can help demystify it a bit. In short, search engines use algorithms that crawl, index, and rank websites. When a user enters a search query, a search engine will return content that best matches the query. 

Effective SEO means optimizing your website to show up at the top of search engine result pages (SERPs) when users enter keywords and phrases relevant to your mission. The higher you rank, the more often you show up – which means that users will be more likely to see and click on your link. Ultimately, the goal of SEO is to increase website traffic and subsequently bring in and convert donors.

If you haven’t made SEO a central part of your fundraising strategy yet, you should. This means making sure that you have relevant keywords that represent your brand, creating high-quality content, and mobile-optimizing your website. I can talk about SEO all day and it certainly deserves a dedicated article (or class) of its own. Luckily, there’s a webinar you can check out that breaks down how to build a sustainable SEO strategy.

Although it can take up to six months to see improvements in your search engine ranking, the long-term ROI proves that it’s an effective marketing and fundraising tactic. 

4. Set Your Fundraising Plan Goals

Your fundraising goals should be based on what funds you need to keep the organization operating.

Your goals are also the catalyst and “North Star” for all your fundraising activities.

It is best to start with what your costs were during the last three fiscal years. If that data isn’t available or you are a start-up, look to your estimated budget or check out the stats of similar organizations.

Jot down the precise amount you need for the upcoming year. Then, build on this goal. Do you see growth in your organization’s future? If so, increase your year-to-year goals based on your anticipated growth.

Fundraising Goal Worksheet Example

You’ll notice that the fundraising goal worksheet example above follows the SMART framework: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound. Here’s how to get SMART when charting out your goals: 

  • Specific:  What will the goal accomplish?  How will it be accomplished?
  • Measurable: How will you measure success? How will you know when you’ve accomplished your goal?
  • Achievable:  Is it realistic and possible? Have others done it before?
  • Relevant:  Is the goal relevant to the problem you’re trying to address?
  • Time Bound: When do you expect to complete this goal?

5. Align With Your Mission

You’ve got the right team in place and a basic idea of the goals you need to meet. Now it is time to make sure these goals align with your nonprofit’s fundraising objectives.

Bust out that organizational mission statement. This statement should answer these questions:

  • Why is your organization in operation?
  • What types of change are you making in the world?

Base your fundraising plan on how these dollars are helping put your mission into action.

You aren’t just raising money. You are raising money to make a difference. So, dissect your mission statement and goals and align the two. Explain, in detail, how much money you need to accomplish everything in your mission.

6. Detail Your Methods

After you’ve aligned your goals and mission, it is time to describe exactly how you will be raising those funds. You want your fundraising plan to be so detailed that even those outside of the organization will be able to understand it!

List the types of fundraising techniques you will be using. Include strategies such as:

(Be sure to also check out our comprehensive list of fundraising ideas for more inspiration.)

Then, list the steps you need to take before and after each of the above activities. You may need to train volunteers, get your materials ready, or talk to someone about setting up the campaign website. Take some time to really dive deep into each of your fundraising strategies.

Also, be sure to think of both short-term and long-term activities. What can you focus on now and what fundraising tactic can you expand if your organization needs additional funding?

7. Look at the Big Picture

Does your organization have a strategic plan? If so, you’ll want to make sure that your fundraising plan aligns with it. Creating 1-year, 3-year, and 5-year plans is a best practice in the nonprofit world, and you can do this with your fundraising plan as well.

Your 1-year fundraising plan should be very specific. Detail every fundraising activity you will engage in over the course of the year.

Your 3 and 5-year plans can be much broader. Highlight key activities for each month, as well as your ultimate goals. If you see your organization growing and needing additional resources in 5 years, then outline a basic schedule that includes the steps you need to take in order to meet this demand.

Also, be sure you’re tracking every cent of fundraising revenue from previous years, as this will help you create data-backed fundraising goals for the future.

8. Bust Out Your Fundraising Plan Calendar

You’ve written down all of your fundraising plan information in a document. Your team has come to an agreement on appropriate financial goals, aligned those with your mission, described your fundraising techniques in detail, and then put this information into 1, 3, and 5-year plans.

Phew!

Now, it’s time to get out your calendar which will supplement your total fundraising plan. Your fundraising calendar will help you to stay on task throughout the year. Let’s say you are nearing the busiest time of the year for fundraising—the holidays.

Sample Fundraising Calendar

Your calendar should detail all the steps you need to take before the “busy season” starts such as establishing your goal, website preparations, and volunteer training.

Mark down your hard deadlines, action deadlines, communication schedule, and your donor retention strategy schedule. Viewing these dates as inflexible will keep you on task, even if you have to make adjustments here and there.

Keep your fundraising calendar on hand at every development meeting. This is a great tool to keep your schedule and goals top of mind. Need to keep track of important dates that may be related to your cause? Check out NonProfit Tech for Good’s sample cause awareness day calendar?

Take a look at our blog post on creating a fundraising calendar for additional information on creating a stellar fundraising calendar. You’ll find a template and worksheet you can use to build your own calendar.

Your final fundraising plan is likely to change as your organization grows, and that is okay! It isn’t meant to be a static document.

You should never ‘fly by the seat of your pants’ in fundraising. You are setting yourself up for failure if you go this route. Taking the time to develop a thorough fundraising plan will pay off in dividends and help you and your fundraising team stay on-task for years to come.

9. Assemble the Troops

When it comes to planning, you definitely need all hands on deck, so figure out who needs to be involved in the process. After all, your development team may be in charge of fundraising, but it takes the entire organization to produce consistent results.

So, let’s get the right people sitting around the table. First, make sure that your board of directors is involved. Their input and support are necessary for this document to “go live.”

Small organizations may only have one or two employees, and it is, therefore, best to have your board there to advise you and get involved helping to create the plan.

Larger organizations that have many departments should focus on creating this plan with top-down support. Therefore, it is best to include the leadership team, the development department, and those working with communications and marketing.

If you are at a loss as to where to start, talk with a professional nonprofit consultant. They can get you started or even guide you through the process if you require extra help.

10. Determine & Delegate Activities

At this stage, it might seem like there’s so much to do and only so much time to do it in. Once you’ve got your team assembled, create a timeline to determine who’s doing what and when. Your timeline will be a roadmap for all your fundraising efforts and can include things like when to launch a campaign or when to schedule out social media posts.  

Make sure to review your timeline with your team to ensure that everyone’s on the same page and that it’s realistic. Chances are, your team members are saddled with other responsibilities so by divvying up activities, you can ensure that you’re not overwhelming them if they already have a heavy workload. 

Consider using a project management software to help with this process.

11. Perform a SWOT Analysis

As an additional level of assessment and to make sure nothing is slipping between the cracks, you may want to perform a SWOT analysis. When done correctly, a SWOT analysis can be an extremely powerful fundraising tool.

But what exactly is a SWOT analysis and why should you use it?

SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. A SWOT analysis is a strategic planning and evaluation tool that can provide direction by assessing your organization’s internal (strengths and weaknesses) and external factors (opportunities and threats). Below is a SWOT analysis template with sample questions in each domain:

StrengthsWeaknesses
– What fundraising strategies have been the most successful or lucrative?
– What are your strongest sources of funding?
– Is there something that gives your organization an edge over others?
– What unique skill sets do your staff, volunteers, and board members possess?
– Where are identified gaps in your existing fundraising strategies?
– What fundraising strategies have been the least successful?
– What areas do you want to improve or grow in?
OpportunitiesThreats
– What new fundraising strategies do you want to try?
– What are potential partnership opportunities that have been presented but yet to be explored?
– Are there marketing opportunities you can leverage?
– Are there events or factors that you anticipate will rock your organization’s finances?
– What similar organizations in your area are also competing for the same sources of funding?
– Are there policy changes or regulations coming down the pike that will negatively impact your organization?

A SWOT analysis takes a critical look at your operations, giving you a clearer idea of the overall health of your organization, how you’re doing compared to similar organizations, and areas where you can improve.

12. Segment and Strategize For Different Donor Types

When it comes to fundraising, personalization is key. You wouldn’t talk to a ten year old the same you would communicate to a thirty-year old. It’s the same concept with your donor base.

You donors aren’t a monolith so skip the generic communications and instead, segment and tailor your messaging for different donor types. One of the most common ways you’ll see a nonprofit segment donors is by gift amount. You could have a segment for small-dollar donors, mid-level donors, and major donors. Of course, it’s up to you to choose what the cutoff amount for each category is. 

Major Donors

The definition of a major donor will vary from organization to organization. For some, the criteria for a major donor could be anyone who gives $10K or more, while others may view anything above $1K as a substantial gift. Regardless of how you define who a major donor is, as a fundraising professional, you already know that they’re important, especially since 88% of all nonprofit funds come from just 12% of donors.

Mid-Level Donors

Similar to major donors, the amount threshold will vary based on your average gift size and donor base. Mid-level gifts can range anywhere from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand dollars.

Small-Dollar Donors

Small-dollar donors are just as important as mid-level or major donors. These are individuals providing $5, $25, or even $75 to your organization each year. Even if it may seem like a nominal amount, it’s still important to steward them well.

Once you’re done segmenting, make sure the messaging to your donor is appropriate for the amount they’ve given. If the most a donor has donated to your organization was $25, asking them for $1,000 doesn’t make a lot of sense and would likely turn them off. 

In a similar vein, small-dollar and mid-level donors have the best potential to be monthly recurring donors which can provide more value over a lifetime compared to a one-time donor who may donate a higher amount. Sometimes, breaking down a large amount into smaller chunks over time is more digestible and an easier ask for your donor.

For instance, Anne is a $25 donor but she donates to your cause every month. That’s $300 every year. Ben on the other hand is a $500 donor but he only gives once. Over the course of 3 years, Anne will have given $900 compared to Ben’s one-time gift of $500. While you still value and appreciate Ben’s gift, based on this, it’s worthwhile for you to focus on communicating recurring giving programs to your small-dollar and mid-level donor groups. To maximize gift size while fully automating donation payments, CauseVox’s Pledge Now, Pay Later allows donors to make a donation pledge now and pay in designated installments. 

Other Ways to Segment

While segmenting by gift amount is popular and common, it’s not always the most personal approach. How much someone gives only tells you their giving capacity but it doesn’t provide much more information otherwise. You’re not going to know how often they give on average (propensity), why they gravitated to your cause, and what they care about (affinity). 

If you don’t want to segment by gift amount, you can always consider segmenting donors based on their level of involvement, their interests, or even by geography. For example, a volunteer will interact differently with your organization compared to someone who’s receiving services. Alternatively, you wouldn’t want to send the same messaging to a lapsed donor and to someone who engages with your organization regularly. 

When you’re attuned to the specificities of a donor (i.e. their interest and intent), you can make their donor journey way more meaningful. The possibilities are endless, so go wild!

13. Keep Everything Organized With the Right Software

The last step in your fundraising plan is to figure out how to keep everything organized. 

Are you cobbling together disparate donor information across multiple spreadsheets? Are you struggling to find the most recent version of a spreadsheet? Do you have spreadsheet fatigue? If the answer is a resounding ‘yes’, you’re not alone. It honestly sounds like a nightmare. 

Fortunately, there’s a better way. Whether you’re using Google Sheets or Excel, it is not remotely close to being a replacement for a dedicated donor database. When it comes to keeping everything organized, it’s time to ditch the spreadsheets and switch to a customer relationship management (CRM) software. CRMs are designed to help you track donor information, provide insights, and give you more control of your fundraising efforts. Of course, choosing the right software can make or break your fundraising plan. 

Let’s face it, there’s no shortage of fundraising software out there. If you’re trying to narrow down your options, here’s why you should choose CauseVox. Our fundraising platform is designed increase giving and reduce back-office tasks with features such as:

  • Smart donation forms,
  • Automated receipts,
  • Donation tracking and insights,
  • Built-in CRM to track and build donor relationships,
  • Event ticketing,
  • Customizable peer-to-peer and crowdfunding campaigns,
  • And expert support delivered by real people

We’ve helped thousands of nonprofits simplify their fundraising and reach their goals. You’ve put in the blood, sweat, and tears all year. Let us help you make your job a little easier, all starting at an unbeatable cost of $0

Download a comprehensive fundraising plan template:

Get Started On CauseVox

Book a demo to learn how CauseVox can help you maximize your digital fundraising in 2023 and beyond!


This post was updated in December 2022 for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.

Simplify and grow your fundraising

It honestly felt like using CauseVox expanded our team by another member.

    Easy-to-use Free to get started Cancel anytime
    Copy link
    Powered by Social Snap