Planning doesn’t have to be hard or take a lot of time, but it does require some serious thought, especially for your fundraising plan structure.

fundraising planWhen you take the time to sketch out the details for the coming year, you’ll set yourself up for big success, eliminating the need to worry about where money will come from.

Remember that having a well-thought-out plan will move you from being reactive to being proactive, which will lessen your stress and make you more productive. And don’t we all want that?

A good plan starts with some pre-work. So, grab a pen and paper and think through these 7 questions to get yourself ready for planning your best year ever.

1. How much money do we need to raise?

You need a specific goal for your fundraising plan. If you just want to “raise more money” you’re setting yourself up for failure. After all, how much is more money? $1 more? $100 more? $1,000,000 more? The best way to come up with the amount you need to raise is to first think about the services you want to deliver. Figure out how much that will cost, and THAT’S your fundraising goal. If you try to raise as much as you can then decide how to spend it, you’re doing it backwards.

2. Where will the money come from?

You need a mix of diverse revenue streams to ensure the health of your organization. Will you raise money from individuals? Foundations? Events? Don’t set a goal without knowing where the money will come from. And don’t try to raise all the money from just one source.  If all your revenue comes from one grant or one special event, you’re flirting with disaster.  If something happens to that one revenue stream, you’ll find yourself struggling to keep the doors open. Follow my 1-10-1000 Rule to get a good mix of revenue streams:

  • 1 special event. You read that right. ONE. Doing lots of special events or “fundraisers” wears you out, wears your volunteers out, and wears your donors out. Do one event and do it really well. Then go on to other things.
  • 10 grants. Go get all the grant money you can. If you can find 10 good leads (we usually can find them for clients) then you should be able to fill up your grant deadline calendar and keep a full grant pipeline all year long.
  • 1,000 donors. Build your donor base up to 1,000 people. If you already have more than 1,000 donors, go add another 1,000. Having a big, loyal donor base creates stability and sustainability for your nonprofit. If you lose one donor, you still have 999 who believe in your cause. If you aren’t sure where to find so many new donors, take it in small chunks. Go bring in 10 new donors in the next week just by asking people around you to give. Ask friends, family, current/past volunteers, current/past Board members – anyone you know. Celebrate those 10, then go again. And again. You’ll quickly see that working on building a donor base is a year-round activity.


3. Who will we ask?

fundraising planBe specific. Who will you ask for money? Create lists of current and potential donors to ask (This works best if you’re using a good donor tracking software).  Don’t expect the community at large to support you (it won’t happen).  You need to target current donors, lapsed donors, and warm prospects.  Cold calling doesn’t work too well in fundraising and it’s no fun, plus we all hate it, so don’t go there.

4. When will we ask?

Create a calendar of Asks. Include grant deadlines, events, appeals, etc. to get a complete picture of your year. You’ll be so glad you did this! Start with the hard deadlines (usually grants) then add in your event and appeals, newsletters, etc., so you can see at a glance what’s happening and when. Be sure to space out your Asks and sprinkle in the warm touches so you aren’t always showing up in the mailbox/inbox with your hand out, asking for money.

5. How much will we ask for?

You need to think through the amount you will ask for. Start by making a list of what you need. How much does it cost you to run each program? What equipment or capital improvements do you need? The more clearly you know what you need, the easier the Ask is, especially when it represents something tangible. For example, the Humane Society of Southeast Missouri knows that it costs $6.20 to care for a dog or cat for a day. That’s $43.40 for a week and $186.00 for the month. When you can ask someone for a gift that covers a specific need like that, they can easily imagine how their money will be used and they’ll be more likely to say “yes.”

6. How will we follow up on a gift?

Decide how you’ll steward your donors. You need to know before the donor gives how you will thank them and build a relationship with them. You want to have this all thought-out in advance so it can happen quickly once they give. Receipts should be automatic for online donations and hard copy letters should go out within 48 hours of when you receive a check. Thanking donors is critical to your fundraising success. This is NOT the time to cut corners or be reactive.

Once you have the answers to these 6 questions, you have the backbone of your fundraising plan. You can fill in the other details and then relax, knowing that you’re ready for a successful year.