fundraising success plan

After working in fundraising for many years now, I’ve realized that there are two distinct parts to a fundraising success plan: the skillset and the mindset.

There are many resources to help you learn the skills you need like how to ask people for money, how to find new donors, how to use social media to bring in money, how to manage your email marketing, and on and on.

But without the right mindset, you won’t reach your potential as a fundraiser.


Because your success in fundraising as in anything in life depends on how you see things.

I have been raising money for great causes and teaching people how to raise money for great causes for a long time and I can tell you for sure that what sets the fundraising superstars apart is not skills. It’s their mindset.

And it’s worth taking a closer look at.

What is Mindset? 

Your mindset is simply your established set of attitudes.

Those attitudes shape your beliefs and experiences.

Your mindset is based on your life experiences and your feelings about those experiences.

Have you had the chance to experience success? Those victories influence your mindset, especially if you had to overcome hurdles to succeed.

If you find yourself thinking that success is hard or that it’s not for people like you, there’s something in your past that caused you to think that. And now your mindset shows it.

Your mindset is the attitude you bring to a task, and if you want to be successful, you have to bring the attitude that you WILL BE successful. There’s no other option.

Unfortunately, it’s common among nonprofit founders to have a defeatist mindset, telling themselves things like:

  • “There are too many nonprofits competing for too little funding.”
  • “My community is too rural and there aren’t enough donors.”
  • “What my nonprofit does isn’t sexy.”
  • “People won’t give to support a cause like ours.”

Fundraisers often focus on what they perceive as their challenges. They see mountains to climb and no climbing equipment. They see scarcity of resources.

Successful fundraisers see a mountain to climb and welcome the challenge. Instead of seeing a scarcity of resources, they focus on areas of abundance.

See how that works?

Now, depending on what your mindset is currently, you may have some work to do if you want to cultivate a mindset for success.

Sometimes it’s as easy as opening up to the possibility. Sometimes there’s deeper work to do.

Either way, it’s like a garden. You can grow fruit or you can grow weeds and the difference is the work you do on controlling your thoughts.

With a few daily practices, you can develop the mindset that will lead to success as part of your personal fundraising success plan.

Daily Routines Support a Positive Mindset 

To develop the right mindset for fundraising, you have to take care of yourself.

This can be a challenge right out of the gate, because people who work in nonprofits often do not take care of themselves. We take care of other people and neglect ourselves.

This hurts you in the long run, so you have to learn how to take care of yourself. With healthy daily routines, you will develop a positive mindset and feel better overall.

Trust me on this one. I have been working on myself for a long time.

A couple of years ago, I was feeling beat up, burned out, and overwhelmed. I talked to friends and gathered all their tips for changing my daily routine. Not all their ideas worked, but many did.

Today, I feel like a different person! My organization is growing (no surprise there!), I am healthier, and I am happier.

I have tried lots of different routines to get my day started off right. Here is what I have come up with as my personal success plan. You can adapt what works for me to create a routine that works for you!

Sandy’s Daily Personal Success Plan:

Fundraising Success Plan

First thing when I wake up, before I get out of bed, I ask myself:

What am I excited about today? 

I always come up with something. Somedays, it’s hard. Other days, it’s easy. But settling on something concrete to be excited about gets me headed in the right direction.

Next, I ask myself:

What am I grateful for today? 

I run through in my mind everything I can think of. This puts me in a place of gratitude where lots of things are possible.

Next, I grab my journal and write for about five minutes. I braindump what I am thinking and feeling. I pour my worries onto the page so I don’t have to carry them around in my head.

I feel free!

Then I plop down on the floor to stretch for five minutes. Some days I do a full blown workout, but I at least get my body moving and ready for the day by stretching.

Next up, I shower, get dressed, and eat something—usually a green smoothie or something healthy.

Right before I head out the door, I sit down and breathe for two minutes. I set the timer on my phone, I clear my mind and breathe in and out.

This seems like a simple thing—It only takes two minutes!—but it goes a long way in preparing me for the day. I feel calm, centered, and grounded.

When those two minutes are up, I do two more minutes of visualizing how I want the day to go. I imagine the successes I want to experience, and the things I want to accomplish.

This puts my brain to work anticipating how the day will go.

Finally, I devote another two minutes to how I want to feel about my successes and accomplishments.  I imagine them happening and let myself feel the joy and bliss of success.

If you know anything about metaphysics, you know this part is really important and gets your subconscious brain working on making it happen.

The combination of all these things puts my head in a place of positive anticipation and gratitude and grounds my energy. I feel ready for whatever the day will bring.

Of course, I don’t get through this entire routine every day. Some days, I do half, and some days I do all, and other days something in between. And then there are those days when I barely make it through one or two checkpoints.

But you know what? It’s all good. It doesn’t have to be perfect or perfectly done to make a difference.

Life is a work in progress. I don’t beat myself up over failure to complete. I just commit to doing the best I can the next day.

Just 16 Minutes: Personal Fundraising Success Plan Template: 

  • “What am I excited about today?”

  • “What am I grateful for today?”

  • Journal for five minutes

  • Stretch for five minutes (Or exercise in a full-blown workout)

  • Shower

  • Get dressed

  • Eat something healthy

  • Two minutes of deep breathing and meditation

  • Two minutes of visualizing a successful day

  • Two minutes of feeling how great it will feel

This routine takes only 16 minutes—not counting the shower, getting dressed, and eating. Is it worth 16 minutes to start your day on the right foot every day?

I encourage everyone to be purposeful about how you start your day. It really does matter! Try my routine, or come up with a routine that works for you: your own Personal Success Plan.

The goal is to do something that gets your head in the right space so you can take on the day with strength and enthusiasm.

Fundraising doesn’t just happen. There are many steps you have to take to bring the money in. No matter how many fundraising skills you acquire, you won’t be able to reach your goal without your head being in the right place, which is why you need a fundraising success plan.

Here’s What I Don’t Do

I don’t check my email first thing in the morning. I just don’t! My email app is right there on my phone, and it would only take a second to see what emails have come in, but I don’t do it.

Email is other people’s agendas in your inbox. I don’t start my day by dealing with what someone else wants from me. This puts me in a place of dread, overwhelm, fear, and even anxiety.

Whatever is in my inbox can wait until later. I sometimes don’t get around to checking email until mid-morning.

Work on YOUR agenda first.

Five More Ways to Start the Day Right

Here are some additional things you can do for yourself in the morning to get your day off to the best possible start, adapted from a checklist by our friends at Classy:

  • Lemon water: Some people swear by a large glass of lemon water first thing in the morning. You’ll feel rehydrated and have a vitamin C boost for your immune system.

  • Tea: Take a cue from the British and start your day with hot tea. The ritual of brewing tea, including the sound of the kettle, can help with relaxation. And studies have proven what many people know: tea has calming properties and can help you destress even before the day’s stressors start to pile on.

  • Music: We tend to turn up the volume on our favorite songs to rev up, but music can also have a calming effect. Find the right music for the moment, music that makes you feel relaxed, optimistic, and happy. Sounds of rain and other nature sounds can also provide just the right calming background music to start your day.

  • Aromatherapy: Scents such as lavender, rosemary, and citrus are known for calming properties. Your favorite scent, such as cinnamon or vanilla, could also help get you to a place of calm in the morning. Indulge with body wash in the shower, essential oil for your wrists and temples, and a scented candle or air freshener at the office. We keep a diffuser running in our office most of the time!

  • Dark chocolate: Starting your day off with rich dark chocolate may sound too decadent, but research supports the great news that chocolate relieves stress. Experiment to find the darkest chocolate you can enjoy.

It may feel too self-indulgent to do these things. A scented candle on a Tuesday? Dark chocolate for breakfast? A fussy tea ritual when you have so much to do?

Just treating yourself with kindness may feel strange at first because you aren’t used to it!

Remind yourself that you are taking these steps because you have ambitious goals you want to reach, and you need to be your best self to reach them. And, also, because you are a good person and deserve a little self care.

What Does This Have to Do with Fundraising?

You may feel like you don’t have time for self-indulgent rituals when you have a nonprofit to run and funds to raise.

This is a trap many nonprofit leaders fall into. We’re so obsessed with running our nonprofit and trying to fully fund our budget that we run ourselves right into the ground.

I don’t want you to crash and burn. I want you to take care of yourself first and then take care of others via your nonprofit.

I want you to start each work day with a clear mind that is positioned for success. I want you to have the mindset you need.

Your personal fundraising success plan includes stewarding the donors you have, bringing in new donors, running campaigns, planning events, writing better email subject lines, and … social media. And always social media, the strategy that never sleeps.

But your most important strategy is you. Start each day calm, centered, and ready to execute your fundraising success plan with efficiency, flexibility, and heart.

And then log off in time for dinner, friends and family time, and a little more time for you, all before you fall into bed for a good night’s sleep. Then, you’ll wake up and do it all over again.

You’ve got this!