The Nonprofit Marketing Blog

Create a Fundraising Plan: Setting Your Course

I’ve never described myself as a runner, which is why it was a total surprise to my friends and family (and even myself) when I started running 5Ks last year. I used to “run” occasionally, but nowhere in the league of runners who put in many more miles than I did and still do each week. It was while out for a run on vacation last year when I became curious to see just how far I could go before collapsing. As my iPod prompter announced in my ear, “2 miles… 2.5 miles… 3 miles… 3.5 miles,” I was stunned that I could run a 5K distance without feeling completely spent. Since that time, I’ve run a number of races, tracked and compared my split paces and overall times, and tried to tailor my training to increase speed and build up momentum. I’m always asking myself just how far and fast I can go, with my ultimate goal being to run a 10K.

For more about setting goals and developing a plan, 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 strategy.

Putting together a development plan is a lot like training for a race. It’s composed of equal parts realism and aspiration. Just as I prepare for a race by setting a speed goal based on my previous fastest pace, the realism in a development plan comes from building next year’s projections off current and past giving trends. What’s your starting point? How much have you been able to raise in the past? How has that revenue typically broken down among Individuals (annual fund and major gifts), foundations, corporations, events, and online and direct mail appeals? Once you put numbers next to each donor category, do they add up to the organizational budget goal you need to raise next year? If not, you will need to identify where to focus on growing revenue.

This is where the aspiration enters the mix. In my running example, I have speed and distance goals that are both slightly out of reach right now. They inspire me to keep pushing myself so I can turn these aspirations into reality. In your development planning, how much can you grow your fundraising so it’s a bit of a stretch but still attainable? Mind you, you don’t want to set yourself up for failure by overprojecting how much you can raise. You do, however, want to always look at where you can expand and enhance your fundraising efforts to yield more revenue. For example, if your donor base is not evenly distributed among individual and institutional donors, you might look at ways to diversify so your funding isn’t dependent on one type of donor. Even within donor categories, what can you build into your activities next year that will encourage increased contributions? Maybe it’s creating a donor giving circle or starting a major gifts or corporate partners program.

The fundraising targets are one way to know if you’re building a sustainable fundraising model based on an engaged and, hopefully, growing donor base that is more deeply investing in your work. In addition to tracking dollars raised, donor-retention metrics help you define who is and can be in your universe of supporters. These metrics might include:

  • Total number of donors: Maintain at least that same donor retention rate next year.
  • Total number of new donors to acquire. In thinking about your growth strategies, what ways can you aim to acquire at least as many new donors as you did this current year?
  • Total number of lapsed donors (two fiscal years prior compared to current fiscal year): What can you do through communications and outreach strategies to convert some of your lapsed donors back to supporting you next year?

Finally, and no less important, while this part of the planning has focused on how much you want to raise, you also need to evaluate how much your fundraising activities will cost. Starting with your current-year fundraising expenses and keeping in mind the aspirational but attainable stretch targets you’ve set, are there necessary additional costs for things like events, staffing, or direct mail? It costs money to raise money, and it’s important to ensure you have enough resources to set yourself up for success.

Now you’ve begun to chart your course for next year. In my next blog post, we’ll look at what metrics will help you track your progress toward your fiscal year goals.

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About This Blog

Linda Lombardi

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

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