fundraising planPeople ask me all the time “what should be in my fundraising plan?”

I find that most people who don’t have a plan just don’t know where to start or what to include.

When I give them my simple answer, they don’t trust it at first.

For some reason, they seem to want to make it hard. They think a fundraising plan should be this massively complicated thing. And it doesn’t have to be.

Start with a goal. Actually 3 goals. Then fill in the “how” to reach those goals.

Three top goals for your fundraising plan

If you want it to be successful, your fundraising plan should include these top 3 goals:

  • Total amount of money to raise
  • Number of donors to renew
  • Number of donors to acquire

Some people include the first one. Most leave out the other two. Why?

Because they’re too focused on the money.

Let’s look at each of these more closely.


Goal #1 – Total amount of money to raise

This seems straight forward to me – you need to know how much to raise so your nonprofit can deliver its programs. But apparently not everyone sees it that way.

Here are two ways you can get in trouble with this goal.

1. Doing it backwards. Don’t go try to raise all the money you can THEN figure out how to spend it. That’s the tail wagging the dog. Decide what programs you want to deliver, then figure out what it will cost. THAT’S how much you need to raise.

2. Vague goal. Be specific – down to the penny – how much you need to raise. Why? If you don’t have a clear goal, how will you know how much to ask for? How will you know when you’ve crossed the finish line?

I had a client several years ago with an $11 million budget. When I asked him how much he wanted to raise, he said “more than last year.” Seriously? I was stunned. How much is ‘more?’ A dollar more? A million more?You will NEVER fully fund your budget with vague goals. So be specific and measurable.


Goal #2 – Number of donors to renew

Donor retention is something that not near enough people pay attention to, yet it’s critical to long-term fundraising success.

Across the board, donor retention rates are awful right now, running about 35%. That means if you start the year with 100 donors, you’ll end the year with 35.

What’s happening to people? Where are they going?

Here’s my theory: You lose some donors because they move away and give to nonprofits in their new community. You lose some donors because they pass away and can no longer give. But you lose MOST donors because they simply go away – they don’t feel connected to your mission or they don’t feel appreciated or needed, and they decide that the nonprofit down the road will be more fun to give to.

This one you can fix.

As you’re creating your fundraising plan, be sure that you’re including plenty of activities to connect with donors and help them feel good about giving to your nonprofit. Make sure you’re making more deposits than withdrawals into therelationship account.

Nobody wakes up in the morning and says “I feel like giving some money away. Where’s the yellow pages? I gotta find a nonprofit!”  It’s YOUR job to give people a reason to care and invite them to give again.


Goal #3 – Number of donors to acquire

We just established that you’re going to lose donors. Every year. That means if you’re average, you need to bring in 65 new donors just to break even at the end of the year (remember, you’re only retaining 35).

Then the question becomes “Where do we find new donors?”

The best place to start is with those closest to your organization and work out. Invite staff and volunteers to give. Your Board should already be giving. Ask everyone to invite their friends to give. Ask your program participants to give.

When you’re just starting to look for donors, it can feel overwhelming. Hang in there with it and be persistent, and it won’t take long to see the fruits of your labor.

fundraising plan

When you get clear about these three goals, you can then start choosing fundraising strategies that move you toward them. ONLY do those things that help you raise money, retain donors or get new ones.

That’s when you’ll see your plan become success right before your eyes.



  1. Chidinma Umesegha says:

    Great post Sandy!
    Effective fundraising is a continuous process that definitely depends on effective planning. I like how you simplified it into just setting 3 important goals that have to be included in our plan. Strategies that we employ while reminding ourselves of our aim to raise money, acquire new donors, and retain old donors, will surely produce great results.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes:

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>