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How to Create a Stellar Fundraising Plan

March 27, 2022
14 minutes

Create a stellar fundraising plan to bring in the big bucks and fuel your nonprofit's mission!

Putting a new fundraising plan in place can be daunting, but it means that you’ll have an improved roadmap to meet your goals. If you can't remember the last time you revisited your fundraising plan, it's time to reset. And if you don’t have one? The time is now, friend.  

Know your numbers from last year

One of the best places to start when you want to develop a new fundraising plan is to look at your numbers from the year before. Yes, that means you need to face the music. The good, the bad, and the ugly. But you got this, fundraiser.

When you finally work up the nerve to face the music, here are some key numbers to look up:

  • Total amount raised
  • Total number of donors
  • Number of new donors
  • Donor retention rate
  • The amount raised from major gifts, annual giving, and planned giving
  • The amount raised per channel, such as email, direct mail, events, and so on 

Use your donor CRM to create reports based on the criteria above, then take some time to review these numbers and see how they stack up to your goals and expectations from last year. Be sure to log any insights you harvest from your data.

Declare your new goal

The next and most crucial step in developing your fundraising plan is to set your goal. The amount of money you want to raise could be tied to your organization’s budget, which can take the guesswork out of picking your goal. Or you can determine your goal based on last year's fundraising number with a goal to increase the amount by a certain percentage.

We found that the most effective goals are a combination of the two. If your fundraising goal can both offset your organization's budget while exceeding the previous year's goals, you've got yourself a win-win. And we know you've heard this a million times, but no matter what, make sure your goal is S.M.A.R.T. (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-based). Some advice is worth repeating because it's tried, and most importantly, true.

In addition to your monetary goal, you may also want to set other mini goals that can indicate growth or positive developments in your fundraising program. Increased donor retention, anyone? Or perhaps raising some brand awareness?

 

A hand-drawn illustration of a pink hand holding a blue pencil over a To Do List

Know your case for support

You know your fundraising work is helping to fund awesome things. Let’s make sure everyone else knows it, too. That’s why you need a case for support, also known as a case statement. This can be a formal or informal document that details why giving to your nonprofit makes a difference and why someone should donate.

An effective case for support:

  • Creates an emotional connection through storytelling
  • Clearly outlines your nonprofit's history, mission, and vision
  • Summarizes your organization's impact and accomplishments
  • Outlines your organization's current financial needs 
  • Explains why your potential donors should care
  • Closes with a compelling call to action

Now is the perfect time to make sure your case for support is up to snuff. Dust it off, update it, and use it.

Map out the strategies and tactics

With your goal in mind, you're ready to dive into the details of how you’ll achieve this goal. To make your fundraising plan super useful for you and your team, you need to outline the strategies and tactics you’ll use to reach your goal.

List out all the things you’ll do to raise money, including:

  • Major gifts appeals
  • Fundraising and donor cultivation events
  • Direct mail fundraising
  • Email campaigns
  • Text engagement
  • Peer-to-peer fundraising

After you’ve written out your list, go through each tactic and write out a step-by-step project plan or create a list of milestones for each tactic. Remember, this part of the fundraising plan is where the rubber meets the road. Do the work now because your future self will thank you!

Put it on the calendar

You’ve made your plan and now you’re excited and fired up! Don't let your plan become a pipe dream—put it on your calendar. Start by putting key dates on your calendar, such as campaign or appeal dates or key stewardship activities. If putting every last detail on the calendar feels too overwhelming, try using a project management system for your fundraising plan such as Trello or Asana.

Celebrate

Planning is hard work so celebrate this achievement, fundraiser! Take yourself out for a coffee or even just take a break. You’ve earned it.

Fundraising doesn’t have to be overwhelming or chaotic. With a fundraising plan in place you’ll have clarity and confidence to conquer for years to come, and maybe even put a little fun back in fundraising.

Fire up Fundraising Momentum with a 90-day Plan

Colorful post-it notes dot a light green sketched background

Okay, so you’ve read our plan above, and you’re raring to go. But some of you might need a bit more of a push to forge ahead. If you’ve got no time to waste—if you’re ready to take action and get momentum—we’ve got your back. We’re here to help you build your 90-day fundraising plan.

Start with your annual goal

While we're going to plan in a 90-day increment, what we do during these 90 days needs to be focused on a bigger goal, which is likely your annual fundraising goal. It could also be another strategic goal you’ve set for your fundraising program, like a donor acquisition and retention goal.

Once you’ve got your annual goal in mind, define a clear milestone for your 90-day plan so that you're truly taking the most impactful action on a daily and weekly basis.

As an example, let’s say your annual goal is to raise $500,000. Your 90-day milestone could be to raise $125,000.

Choose your areas of focus

Your 90-day plan isn't meant to be a catch-all or addition to your already-endless to-do list. It’s meant to be a strategic, focused action plan that helps you address the tasks most likely to bring results. Realistically, you can’t do it all without working excessive hours or worse, burning out.

As an act of self-care and being the strategic fundraising you are, you’re going to choose 2 to 4 areas of focus for your 90-day plan. Over the course of a year, some of these areas of focus may stay the same, but some could shift as you make progress towards your goal. 

Going back to our example. Our 90-day milestone is to raise $125,000. Our areas of focus could include a spring campaign and donor communication

Depending on your role, you may already have operations or systems areas of focus. If this kind of work is part of your regular role and takes up a chunk of your time, be realistic about whether or not to include it as an area of focus in your plan.

Set your monthly priorities

Now we’re getting into the finer details of your plan—setting monthly priorities. For each of your areas of focus, you need to determine what you need to accomplish that month in order to meet your 90-day milestone and ultimately your annual goal.

If you find yourself wanting to include everything but the kitchen sink in your monthly priorities, challenge yourself to under plan. Yes! Plan to accomplish less than you think you should, because as we all know everything takes longer to accomplish than initially planned and fires inevitably crop up. 

Gary Keller, author of The One Thing, also has useful advice for under planning. “What is the one thing I can do right now, that by doing it everything else will become easier or unnecessary?”

Using our example, here’s what monthly priorities could look like.

Area of Focus
Month 1
Month 2
Month 3

Spring Campaign

1. Create a project plan for the campaign

2. Set messaging for spring campaign

3. Find 1 or 2 featured stories for the campaign

1. Write all direct mail, email and social posts for campaign period

2. Approve and format all direct mail and email


1. Campaign launch

2. Steward campaign donors

3. Evaluate campaign

Donor Communication

1. Send 3 emails to email subscribers

2. Send snail mail donor newsletter

1. Send 4 emails to subscribers that lay messaging foundation for the spring campaign

1. Create post-campaign communication plan

As you can see, each of these monthly priorities is a multi-step project. As you get into weekly or even daily planning, bring out your 90-day plan and set your weekly or daily tasks based on what is going to help you fulfill your monthly priority. Each week you can ensure you’re taking focused action towards your most important goal. 

A 90-day plan can ramp up and sustain your fundraising growth the way a longer plan can't. The more action you take, the more momentum you’ll feel in your fundraising program, which is how you’ll hit your goal of feeling like a fundraising rockstar.   

Fundraising Plan FAQs

Why do you need a fundraising plan?

A carefully honed fundraising plan allows you to focus your efforts and know what to expect. It gives you guidance when you’re in the thick of things—you’ll know what to do for each event, when to send a mailing, and when to make a call. In short, it’s the anchor that keeps everyone steady, even in a rocky situation.

Who should write the fundraising plan?

If you've got a development director (or someone similar), they should write the plan, working with your nonprofit's CEO or Executive Director as well as the board. If you don't have a DD, then your head honcho should do it in partnership with the board of directions. And if you’re really stuck, you can always seek out a development consultant to help out.

How do you set your plan’s fundraising goal?

The most effective plans have a goal that takes into account your organization’s budget and last year's fundraising number. Your goal should be an increase over last year’s amount but not break the budget.

What else should be included in a fundraising plan?

Besides your goal, you should include your mission, budget, strategies to raise money (major gifts appeals, fundraising and donor cultivation events, direct mail, grants, email campaigns, text engagement, peer-to-peer fundraising, and more), and timeline.

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