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 fundraising plan.
What Is A Nonprofit Fundraising Plan?
A fundraising plan is a document that organizes all of your fundraising activities over a certain period of time (usually 1-year). These strategic plans generally include campaign dates and strategies, donor-tracking plans, special event details, and a targeted communication schedule.
A fundraising plan is meant to keep you focused and on-task throughout the year.
Why Do You Need One?
First and foremost, fundraising plans get everyone within your organization, including staff, volunteers, and board members, on the same page. It should give your team a clear idea of what will be expected of them over a period of time, 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 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 6 must-do steps to ensure your fundraising plan is ready.
How To Write A Successful Fundraising Plan
Assemble the Troops
When creating a fundraising plan, you definitely need all hands on deck. Figure out who needs to be involved in the planning 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, development department, and those working with communications.
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.
Set Your Fundraising Goals
Your fundraising goals should be based on what funds you need to keep the organization operating. It is best to start with what your costs were during the last 3 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.
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 mission.
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.
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 development world will be able to understand it!
List the types of fundraising techniques you will be using. Include strategies such as:
- Crowdfunding campaigns
- Face-to-face asks
- Phone calls
- Mail campaigns
- Email marketing campaigns
- Fundraising Events
- Grants and matching gifts
- Corporate giving and partnership development
- Recurring donation campaigns
- Month-long focus on endowments
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?
Look at the Big Picture
Does your organization have a strategic plan? If so, you’ll want to make 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 more broad. 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.
Bust Out Your 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 in 1, 3, and 5-year plans.
Now, it’s time to get our 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.
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 How To Develop And Maintain Your Fundraising Calendar for additional information on creating a stellar fundraising calendar. We’ve also put together 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.
This post was originally published in August 2016 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.