fundraising planIt’s April, which means the first quarter of 2015 is done.

Now is a great time to pause and reflect on what you’ve gotten done and see what you need to do next.

It’s time to pull out your fundraising plan and see if you’re on track.

If you don’t HAVE a fundraising plan, you’re not alone. Most folks who work in a small nonprofit either ave no plan or a partial plan, and it’s almost never in writing.

Here are some common reasons why you may not have a plan.

1. You don’t have time. You’re crazy busy with more on your plate than you can ever say grace over (that’s Southern for more than you can get done). It seems like every day, the list just keeps growing. The problem here is that you’re busy, but are you busy doing the right things? What is your busy-ness moving you toward? Without a fundraising plan that’s based on sound strategy, you may be going in circles or doing things that will never actually move you toward your goals.

2. You don’t know where to start. Sometimes big tasks like “Create a fundraising plan” are just too daunting. You know it needs to be done, but you have no idea where to start, and the thought of figuring it out makes you want to take a nap. You need to take it one step at a time, and stop being more focused on getting it right than getting it started. Just take the first step – that will get you out of procrastination and into action.

3. You don’t know what format to use. Many times people say to me “Sandy, if I just knew what a fundraising plan should look like, I could create one.” Unfortunately, there’s no perfect formula here. Plans can take various shapes. The most important thing is to get it in writing. As long as it’s in your head, it isn’t real. Use Excel or Word or crayons and paper if that appeals to you. The format isn’t what’s important – what’s important is setting a direction and some goals, and getting it in writing.

4. You don’t know what to include. Now we’re getting into cop-out mode. In your gut, you know you need to include all the major details that describe your goals and how you’ll reach them. Saying you don’t know what to include is just an excuse so you don’t have to do it.

5. Things are already going along just fine. This one is a little tricky. Sometimes it can seem like everything is just perking along. And it may be. But if you’re not raising enough money to fully fund your nonprofit’s mission, then you have more work to do. You need to stretch and find a way to be more effective and efficient in fundraising. That’s when you need a plan.

Those are a lot of reasons why you might not have a plan.

Ready for some good news? It’s not too late to put one together.

You can start today to create a fundraising plan for the rest of 2015.

Try this:

1. Start by setting a goal for the amount of money you need to raise. “As much as we can” or “A lot” are not good goals. Look at the programs you’re running or want to run. What does it cost? Include all direct and indirect expenses. And add it all up. THAT’S the amount you need to raise.

I suggest you think big on this one. Make it a substantial goal – not too crazy big, but big enough to stretch you a bit. It’ll cause you to stretch your thinking and your skills, which will be a good thing.

2. Evaluate what you’ve done before. This is a good time to take a look at hard numbers. What has worked? What didn’t? Which fundraising activities gave you the best ROI? Then decide which ones you want to do again. Hint: you don’t have to keep doing something just because you always have. You also don’t have to do something just because everyone else does.

This means you need to do a little digging. Take a little time to find out what you’ve really raised on all your fundraising efforts over the past year and do the math to figure out which ones gave you the most return on your investment. For every dollar you spent, how much did you raise?

The only reason you should skip this step is if your nonprofit is so new you haven’t done anything yet.

3. Choose the strategies you want to use to raise money. Pick those that give you a good return on your investment of time, money, and energy. Not sure what to pick? Use my 1-10-1000 Rule.

Do 1 special event and do it really well. Make it a Signature Event that everyone in town associates with your organization. Make it a FUN event that people talk about for days afterward. And make sure it makes you plenty of money so it’s worth the effort.

Get 10 grants. Actually, get all you can. I like the number 10 because it fits with my 1-10-1000 Rule. Seriously, when we do grant research for clients, we typically find about 10 really solid grant prospects. Chances are good that with 10 grants, you’ll have deadlines scattered throughout the year, with a few of them having no deadlines and you can work them in when you have time.

Get 1,000 individual donors. Yes, that’s one thousand donors. Don’t freak – you can do this. That many donors will give you a SOLID base of support. Start by figuring out the number of active donors you have right now. Then work on adding 100. When you get those, go find another hundred. By taking it in smaller bites, you’ll be more likely to be successful.

And where do you find new donors? Start with those already invested in your organization – ask your volunteers to give. Ask you those giving in-kind to you to make a financial gift. Ask people who benefit from your programs to give. Then ask them to ask their friends to give. Work your way out to others who are likely to care. Create an Ideal Donor Profile of the person who is MOST likely to give, then brainstorm ways that you can find them easily and in large numbers. This exercise is extremely valuable and will help you focus your donor acquisition efforts in the right place.

4. Put the plan in writing. As you answer these questions, write down your answers. It won’t be a perfect plan, but it will get you started, and hey, that’s half the battle. If It’s not in writing, it isn’t real.
Mark your calendar to revisit this plan in July to see how the 2nd quarter of the year went. That will be a good time to make adjustments before you head into the Fall.

And remember, you can fail to plan or plan to fail – it’s up to you.