The Nonprofit Marketing Blog

Create a Fundraising Plan: Getting Ready

Getting Ready for Your Fundraising Plan

“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” —Benjamin Franklin

I’m what you’d call “a planner.” Before I take a trip—even if it’s a place I know—I research the latest restaurants, places of interest, stores, theater shows, and museum exhibits. I make reservations well in advance. I sketch out a general itinerary to make sure I maximize my time. I have emergency contact information and multiple contingency plans. It took one crazy cab ride late at night on what should have been a transit through (not throughout) Naples to teach me to have alternative backup plans. Having a full sense of my options, needs, and resources well in advance puts me at ease and makes my trips much more enjoyable.

For more about setting goals and calculating expenses, download a copy of the eGuide How to Create a Fundraising Plan. You’ll also have access to free Excel templates to help you map out your plan.

The same principles apply when you are planning your fundraising for a new fiscal year. You need to know where you want to go, internal and external factors that may help or hinder the success of that plan, and the steps to take to reach the finish line. The new eGuide I co-authored with Network for Good, How to Create a Fundraising Plan, is a step-by step overview of how to create a plan that’s realistic. It will also help you build a sustainable fundraising model from which you can grow in future years. The key to crafting a plan is the prep work you do before you begin to map out your course. I call it the “Getting Ready” stage.

The first and most important step is determining how much you will need to raise this year. When your organization begins its budgeting process for the next fiscal year, your senior staff (executive director, board, development director, senior leaders) can discuss anticipated overall expenses (be sure to include both programmatic and administrative costs!) and how much funding is needed to support your operations. This is essential. You want everyone on the same page when it comes to expenses so that you avoid unrealistic fundraising expectations and goals.

Equally important to these planning discussions is ensuring everyone understands the fundraising trends you’ve experienced in your current and previous fiscal years. These can be one-off events, bequests, or other anomalies that may not be sustainable or guaranteed future sources of funding. Sit down with appropriate staff members and discuss anticipated income. Understanding what’s expected through committed and potential sources will help you better calculate your fundraising goal.

After you have determined your projected expenses and income, you can then calculate your “left to raise” goal for the year. This is the gap between what you have identified as income from various sources that you know you can count on and your overall organizational budget for the fiscal year. The “new money” you need to raise is the missing part of the equation.

If you can, think about adding up to 10% over that goal to start growing a financial cushion for your organization. When you start to write the plan, you’ll develop a fuller pipeline of prospects and anticipated solicitations. If you don’t think you will have the donors and asks needed to reach your budget, now’s the time to discuss this with senior staff so there are no surprises later in the fiscal year. It might mean you adjust the fundraising goal by scaling back new initiatives or programming. It could also be a call to action to engage your board and other volunteers to fundraise in new ways.

Once you have a good handle on your financial needs and potential, take a look at revenue and expenses from your current fiscal year and the past few years to spot patterns in your donors’ behavior as well as overall industry and economic trends. This helps you identify where you should make course corrections in the future. For example, are there noticeable trends in giving to your issue area? How has donor confidence been generally? How has donor confidence been toward your organization? How did your fundraising revenue break down, and what were your fundraising expenses for each donor type? What motivates your donors? Do they tend to give through events or to restricted programs? Learn and grow from what you know.

Don’t worry about spending too much time finding the exact answers to the broader industry analysis questions. It’s most important to understand your donors’ giving patterns and the external factors that can affect your organization’s fundraising (for example, remember the stock market plummet of 2008 and the many years it took to restore donor confidence?). Once you’ve assessed all of your data, you’re ready to start building your plan. In my next blog post, we’ll review how to use this information to set your course for the next year.

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About This Blog

Linda Lombardi
Content Manager

We’re here to help you win hearts and minds—and donations.

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