It’s fundraising season!

And I bet you’re busy thinking about all kinds of things from fundraising letters to end-of-year activities.

If you really want to set yourself up for success for fundraising in the last quarter of 2010, take some time to plan your activities.  This will move you from being reactive to being proactive, and you’ll be much more likely to hit your goals.

Since most nonprofits send a fundraising letter during this time of year, I thought I’d share a tool I use and recommend to make it easier. (We’re all interested in easier, right?).

Create a production schedule for getting your letter ready and in the mail.  Start with the date you want the letters to arrive in your readers’ mailboxes, then work backward.  Allow time for stuffing the envelopes, time for printing, time for proofing, time for editing, and time for writing.  You’ll find that you need to start anywhere from several days to several weeks ahead depending on the number of letters you plan to send.  Here’s a more graphical way to create a production schedule:

(This particular schedule works for a nonprofit with a small list and they plan to print and mail the letters themselves.)

November 1 Mail letters
October 30 Fold letters, stuff envelopes
October 28 Print letters
October 27 Final Proof of letters
October 25 Mailing list review
October 20 Write letter and review



Resources needed

Nov 1

Mail letters

Trip to the post office

Oct 30

Fold, stuff, seal, and stamp letters

Volunteer labor, postage stamps, envelopes, all pieces of the package

Oct 28

Mail-merge and print letters

Data list, paper/letterhead for printing

Oct 27

Final proof of letter

People to review the letter for content, accuracy and style. Checklist on page

Oct 26

Mailing list review

Your database

Oct 25

Format letter and reply card

Microsoft Word or other word processing software

Oct 20

Write letter and reply card

Samples in Units 2 & 3 of this book

Oct 15

Choose or create theme

Knowledge of current funding needs, history of previous mailings, theme ideas in this book

  1. Great reminder, Sandy! The nice thing about even thinking about a schedule is that whomever is working on the project can try to think when they are not under pressure about all the steps involved and hopefully they won’t forget anything key when the crunch time happens.

    At our company, we have created different types of schedules for different types of projects. Then we have assigned the individual job steps to different people on our team. So that way everyone knows their part of the project and when it is due.

  2. Sandy,
    It’s great that you’ve stepped back to really look at the process in detail. For those of us who have been in this business for a long time, planning like this has become so second nature that we forget that it’s not so obvious to all.

  3. Hi Sandy – thanks for the very helpful timeline. So many small nonprofits don’t start the planning ahead of time and it really impacts their success. Backward scheduling is the way to go. Thanks for the reminder!

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