Raising all the money you need to fully fund your budget doesn’t happen by accident – You need a plan.

Planning for many people is like trying to grab smoke – you can see it, but when you try to touch it, it disappears.

The good news is that planning doesn’t have to be hard, complicated, or elusive.

It can be as simple as hitting the pause button long enough to get your thoughts on paper about what you want to do in the next 12 months. Or even 6 months.

You wouldn’t build a house without a blueprint.

You wouldn’t cook a new dish without a recipe.

You wouldn’t take a road trip without a map.

Why should your fundraising be any different?

Trust me when I say ‘spray and pray’ is NOT an effective strategy for raising money. You can’t throw something out to the whole community and hope that someone responds. It doesn’t work.

You need a carefully planned strategy, especially if you are committed to those you serve.

Everyone I’ve ever talked to about planning knows they need one. So why don’t more people create and use a plan?

There are several common mistakes people make in planning that hold them back and keep them from pulling their plan together, which cripples the nonprofit’s ability to move forward. See if any of these apply to you.

1. Too focused on the money. Lots of nonprofit leaders and volunteers get tunnel vision about money and that’s all they can think about. I get it. When you need money, you focus on it. But you need to think about the source of the money – your donors, and make sure you’re taking care of them throughout your plan. When you focus too much on the money, you’ll come across as needy or greedy, and no one wants to support that.

2. Imaginary plan. Way too many people say they have a plan, but it’s not written down anywhere. Listen, if it’s not in writing, it’s not real.The plan in your head can change too easily and there’s no one to hold you accountable when you don’t complete part of it. It’s too easy for you to drop parts of your imaginary plan, shift others, and back off your goals because you don’t feel like doing certain parts.

3. Working out of habit. Maybe your nonprofit does things because it always has, but tradition is not a good reason to continue an event, an appeal, or anything else. Include activities in your plan because they move you closer to your goal, not because you’ve always done them.

4. Unclear goals. It’s hard to cross the finish line when you don’t know where it is. Using goals like “raise more money” or “raise more than last year” are too vague to be useful. You’ll never know when to kick in the afterburners to reach your goal or do the Happy Dance once you’ve reached it.

5. Perfectionism. Too many people wait for the perfect time, the perfect Board, the perfect staff, the perfect template, or a perfect something else to work on their fundraising plan. But here’s the truth: there will never be a perfect time, Board, staff, or template. So, you just have to use what you have and get your plan done. And anyway, done is better than perfect.

6. No time. You make time for things that are important to you. If you say you have no time to plan, that’s an excuse covering up another reason you don’t want to plan. When you don’t find the time to work on your plan, it actually keeps you stuck right where you are, because you aren’t giving yourself the chance to think bigger, find other opportunities, or open up to new possibilities.

7. Analysis paralysis. Some folks delay working on their plan because they think they need a little more info. One more report will show them a magic piece of information. One more person’s input will make all the difference. These are excuses and a procrastination technique. If this is your issue, dig a little deeper and see if you can figure out the REAL reason you don’t want to put a plan on paper.

8. No wheels on the car. Maybe you have a big-picture plan put together, but no idea how it will get done. You did the first step, but didn’t finish with Action Plans detailing the who, what, when, and how much questions. A fundraising plan without action steps is like a car with no wheels – it’s not going anywhere.

9. Wrong-size goals. Your fundraising goals are either way too big of a stretch and unrealistic, or they’re no stretch at all. Either way, you have no motivation to actually work your plan. Your goals are the wrong size for your nonprofit at this particular moment.

10. Unrealistic Board expectations. You may be either putting too much expectation on your Board, thinking they will rise to the challenge and suddenly start fundraising, or you may be completely leaving them out. They’re supposed to be your partners in fulfilling your nonprofit’s mission, so find a way to include them.

11. Overestimating YOU. You probably belong to the “I can do it” club, which means you say “yes” to way too many things. You overestimate how much you can get done which doesn’t leave you much time to think or respond to things that pop up during the day. Stuffing your plan too full doesn’t help bring in more money – it just exhausts you.

12. Using hope as a strategy. Doesn’t work. Never has. Having hope is a GOOD thing, but it has to be coupled with a practical strategy for getting the results you need.

13. No resources for execution. It’s important as you plan to make sure you have the resources to put the plan in motion. Without proper time, money, and manpower, your plan will sit still, which doesn’t help raise money for your programs.

Avoid these mistakes and you’ll find yourself on the way to creating a plan that works for you!


Additional Resources

Here’s my David Letterman style Top 10 Reasons You Have No Fundraising Plan:

Answer these 6 questions to guarantee the success of your fundraising plan:

Start your plan with these 2 things: