How to Create a Fundraising Plan

Like many nonprofit organizations, you may be right in the middle of getting ready to sending out your annual appeal.  Even though your mind is focused on 2012 right now, you need to start thinking about your fundraising plan for next year.

Some nonprofit organizations don’t do long-range planning. That’s a mistake. It’s not optional.  You may have heard the saying if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.  Don’t let that happen to you.

Putting together any kind of plan doesn’t need be painful.  Yes, it takes some time, but it’s time well spent.  It’s a lot better than being taken by surprise when you come up short on revenue.

Ideally, you should have a multi-year fundraising plan that is based on your strategic plan.  Here are a few other things to take into account as you put together your fundraising plan.

How much money do you need to raise?
The revenue part of your fundraising plan is fairly straightforward.   Figure out how much money you get from other sources, such as fees, and how much you need to raise.   Remember to build in a reserve, too.

Be realistic
Determine how much you want to raise from each source – individuals, grants, events, etc.  The funding climate is still precarious, so you need to rely on a variety of sources.

But be realistic about what you can do.  Cultivating major donors is a worthwhile endeavor, but it doesn’t happen overnight and you need to involve your board.  Events and online auctions can take up a lot of staff time and sometimes don’t bring in that much revenue.

Make it detailed
Fundraising plans don’t just cover how much money you are going to raise.  You also need to include a strategy.  Map out each step of an annual appeal campaign or an event and include a timeline.  You don’t want to leave anything out.

Also, figure out who will be involved and in what capacity.  Make sure to include your board. 

It’s not just about acquisition
Yes, your fundraising plan will include ways to find new donors, but don’t neglect the ones you already have. Donor relations is a crucial, overlooked part of your fundraising.  Include ways to thank donors, such as holding an open house or sending out holiday cards, as well as donor communication, such as newsletters and social media updates.

You want as many of your donors as possible to give again and to give at a higher level.  This means you need to keep your donors engaged and interested in your work.  Also, as you look for new donors, find ones who will support you long-term.

Measure your progress
Once a quarter, look at your fundraising plan to see if you are on track with your goals.  Determine what is working and what isn’t.   If you are falling short in your grant revenue, perhaps you are applying to foundations who aren’t the right match for your organization.

In addition, each time you hold an event or run a campaign, figure what worked, what didn’t, and how you can make improvements in the future. 

Here is a dashboard you can use to keep track of your plans.
Don’t make the mistake of not having a fundraising plan.  Here is additional information about putting together a fundraising plan, along with some sample plans and worksheets.

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