successful fundraising plan

I hear it all the time.

“We need to increase programs/build a new building/eliminate a waiting list and we’re going to need more money to do it.”

Yes, and the FIRST thing you need is a plan.

When you have a big goal you want to achieve, the best way to assure that you’ll reach it is to figure out how you’ll get there. You must lay out a well thought-out strategy to ensure your success.

You’ll never wing it or figure it out as you go. No shooting from the hip. No ‘make it up as you go.’ Your goal is too important to leave it to chance.

And yet, so many people don’t plan. They jump in too fast and try stuff without putting much thought into it, which is not too smart. They do the same things they’ve always done, then are disappointed when it doesn’t bring new results.

Here’s what happens when you operate that way:

  • You’re always behind. You’re doing things at the last minute like grant proposals and appeal letters, knowing they’re not you’re best work.
  • You’re always looking for ‘new ideas’ for fundraising that works and hoping that the next time you throw spaghetti at the wall, something will stick.
  • You never quite meet your goals, which means you don’t quite raise enough money to meet your budgetary needs.
  • You’re working ALL the time (evenings and weekends).

All that stuff leads to burnout. Yuck.


If you’re one of those people who has something BIG in the works – a huge goal for changing lives – do yourself and those your nonprofit serves a favor: PLAN for your success.

Planning is part art and part science. There are definitely things to include, like who, what, when, where, and how much.

Before you start on those practical pieces, set yourself up for success with these 8 foundations of a successful fundraising plan.


8 Foundations of a Successful Fundraising Plan

1.  Carve out time to do it right. I know you’re busy and it’s tough to find time to do anything, but you can’t afford to mess this up. Set aside enough time to do the evaluation and prep work, goal setting, and calendaring. Don’t try to rush through this. Give yourself enough time to think.

2.  Get it in writing. This is simple – if it’s not in writing, it’s not real. Seriously, it’s not a plan if it’s in your head. When your plan is written down, it’s easier to share with volunteers and Board members, and it’s easier to follow. It’s easier to evaluate your progress with a written plan. And if you’re like me, you can’t remember what you had for lunch yesterday, much less how you thought you were going to raise an additional $25,000 without writing it down.

successful fundraising plan

3.  Evaluate first. Don’t just do what you’ve always done. Make decisions based on numbers and hard data, not what you feel. This means looking at your results from the past couple of years to evaluate what worked and should be repeated versus what flopped and should be dropped.

4.  Set goals first. Start with your program goals to see how much good your nonprofit will do then price it out to see what it will cost. THAT’S how much money you should aim to raise. Don’t do it backwards by just trying to see how much you can raise then figuring out how to spend it. Trust me, you’ll never raise enough money that way and you’ll never change all the lives you really want to change.

5.  Leverage your assets. Always play up your strengths. What have you got to work with? Name recognition? Large donor base? Loyal volunteers? Programs that save lives? Find a way to make the most of them when you’re raising money. If you don’t think your nonprofit has assets like those, look harder. Everyone has something. And then include something in your plan to strengthen and build your assets.

6.  Consider other community activities. Don’t plan in a vacuum. Take into consideration what’s happening in your community that can impact your fundraising, like large employers closing, new businesses coming to town, other nonprofits running large capital campaigns and so forth. These activities will impact your donors and their ability to give to you, so consider them as you plan.

7.  Plan to get out of your office. Don’t get sucked into “introverted fundraising” where you try to do everything from behind your computer. Get face to face with donors and supporters. You can raise some money from your desk, but your best chances of raising BIG bucks are when you spend time in person with your best donors.

8.   Make the numbers work. Double-check your math to make sure the strategies you choose actually add up to the 3 main goals you need to reach:

  • Total dollars you need to raise
  • Number of donors you need to renew
  • Number of new donors you need to acquire

In other words, don’t just say “we want to renew 50% of our current donors.” Note exactly which activities will accomplish that. Will you do it through the mail? Email? Phone calls? An event? Lay it all out in detail and leave nothing to chance.

And remember that everything you do is a strategy to get you to these three goals.
Paying attention to these 8 foundations will help you put together a plan that will definitely raise more money for your worthwhile mission. When you raise more money, you can change more lives. Isn’t that what it’s all about?

If you want more help in creating a plan, join me for my virtual workshop on June 26 called Fundraising Blueprint. I’ll walk you through these 8 foundations and several other steps to help you create a plan for your best year yet. Get all the details at



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