It is very common for many nonprofits, notably smaller and new charities, to operate without a fundraising plan. It is usually the case where someone has an idea for an event or a campaign, and the nonprofit will get a group together as a host committee to volunteer and run with it. Letters may go out, a few meetings will be held; then invariably, the bank account runs low, and 'panic mode' sets in when it seems the doors are faced with closure.
Avoiding this scenario is the whole purpose behind organizing your nonprofit's fundraising development so that it thrives and attracts new donors. So, how do you avoid that scenario?
Regardless of size, the best way to achieve strong fundraising is to have a well-written fundraising plan. A well-written plan allows you to focus your efforts and plan the year out in advance for your fundraising calendar. More importantly, your new plan gives you guidance when you are in the thick of things on strategy and tactics to use at that time of the event, mailings, or calls. In short, it is the anchor that keeps everyone focused, steady, and all on the same page when the situation looks rocky.
Where do you begin to plan?
Two questions that are asked first around this time are: who writes the plan, and when is the plan written? The second question is the easiest; it is now. If you are running without a fundraising plan, immediately prepare one week to get laser-focused on it and have one written.
Now, regarding the who should write the plan part, if you've got a development director or someone who functions in this role, they would need to be the one to write the plan, working with your nonprofit's CEO or Executive Director as well as the board. If you don't have a Development Director, then the Executive Director or head person to do it but also include the board of directors as well. If all else fails internally, then you can always seek out a development consultant who can assist with writing the fundraising plans. Either way, you will need it done.
Objectives of a good fundraising plan
Once you've identified who will be writing the plan, and that person has met with the appropriate stakeholders to gather input and direction, it is time for them to begin. The following parts should be included in your plan:
What is the Objective?
It's best to think with the end in mind: what is the overall fundraising objective this year? Better yet would be to identify your objective for the next three to four years. Do not pull a number out of a hat for this part. It has to be a number that reflects what it will take to run the organization for that period of time and to be able to carry out the activities of the nonprofit.
Objective #1, Raising Brand Awareness
Sometimes, you will want your goal to be focused on raising brand awareness. This is done to boost engagement and get the word out about your nonprofit and the cause it represents.
Social media is beneficial here with your campaigns. It is essential to spread the word but follow-up on some of the analytics they provide. This could be measuring likes, retweets, comments, and shares of your post.
Objective #2, Acquiring New Recurring Donors
One of the most critical fundraising initiatives is the recurring giving program. This program results in monthly donations that improve yearly in contribution in addition to creating a steady year-round revenue stream. Knowing this, it is very practical then to focus on new donors as part of the recurring campaign.
You can focus on converting donors who have paid incrementally over the past year or recapturing lapsed donors who have not updated their credit card expiry date, for example.
The mission and the message
The above answers the question, "How much do we need?" while this part should answer the "Why do we need it?" question. Ask yourself, what is the organization's mission? What's the plan for the money we raise? What's the operating budget, and why is it that much to begin with?
Tactics and strategy
Ok, so now you know how much needs to be raised and why it needs to be raised. What you need to figure out next is what tactics will be used to raise the goal amount this year and the following years to come. You need to get into details here to figure out each tactic's goal toward the total goal. As an example, if your annual goal is $5000, then you may say that $3000 is coming from new donors, and $2000 will be from a brand awareness campaign event.
Common tactics include these:
- Individual giving – Major donors making contributions. Attracting new donors.
- Major donor groups – Board giving, a finance or development committee, etc.
- Events – all types, large and small
- Direct mail outs – yes, they still exist
- Online and e-Giving – this has slowly become the primary way to attract new donors and give current donors a very simple and easy way to donate financially.
- Grants – Foundations, Corporate, and Government
- Corporate Giving Programs
- United Way fundraising
- Minor donor groups
- Participatory fundraising – e.g., cook-offs, dance/walk/wake-a-thons
- Annual Giving and Multi-year Giving Campaigns
There really is no shortage of ways in which your nonprofit can create to raise money. The only shortage is, of course, in staffing and volunteers to implement the ideas. Using a mix of these over the course of the year would work best. Keep in mind that you need to drop the ones that no longer work. You will need to make up that revenue somewhere else.
Managing the timeline
You can have the plan, budget, mission, and a solid plan that includes great fundraising tactics, but if you fail at setting timelines, all your efforts will fail. While it is good to layout the major plans (event in April, mailings in July, board giving campaign in November), you will still need details of each of those tactics. For each event, there should be a critical path detailed in order to see the success the event deserves. This forces each member of the event team to think critically about the fundraising decisions to be made and how best to achieve them.