The Nonprofit Marketing Blog

The Secret Sauce of Fundraising

Can you guess the number one thing—the “secret sauce,” if you will—that can energize your individual donor fundraising? The answer might surprise you: a fundraising plan.

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In the Nonprofit 911 webinar The Big Picture: Data for Fundraising for Success, Heather Yandow of Third Space Studio shared that interesting tidbit, which emerged from data in the latest Individual Donor Benchmark Report (IDBR). This year, the report looked at individual donor fundraising data from 87 nonprofits with budgets under $2,000,000.

In past years, the IDBR generally looked at averages, but Yandow kept wondering, “What is an indicator of success?” So she asked an expert named Mike Glover to look at the IDBR data and see if he could answer that question.

Glover’s top takeaway from the IDBR data: The only thing that seems to matter is if you have a fundraising plan. When your organization has a plan, investing more time and money means something in terms of individual donor fundraising success.

Having a fundraising plan:

  • Makes donor meetings more fruitful.
    Nonprofits with a plan that invested time in meeting individual donors raised more money per meeting—about $5,000 more. Nonprofits without a plan, however, showed no correlation between the number of donor meetings and the amount of individual donor revenue raised.
  • Boosts your fundraisers’ results.
    Glover compared salaries to individual donor gifts among nonprofits with and without fundraising plans. He found that nonprofits with a plan tended to pay fundraisers more, who in turn raised more money from individual donors—$4.25 per donor for every $1 more in salary, a four-to-one increase. The assumption is if you’re paying staff more, you’ll find a better-qualified candidate and have better resources available for training. You may also have more money in your fundraising budget, of course, but your organization clearly values that position and their work.

Does the whole idea of following a plan make you nervous? Don’t sweat it. Most organizations that reported having fundraising plans also responded, “I have a fundraising plan, and I check in on it from time to time.” The second most popular answer: “It mostly sat on the shelf. I created it but didn’t really look at it.”

Even though most organizations weren’t constantly referencing their fundraising plan, they still saw beneficial effects from it. That tells us that it’s not so much the plan that’s important, but the planning.

So, the real secret sauce is that process of sitting down on your own and as a group, thinking about your goals for the year, discussing priorities and strategies, getting buy-in, and putting some things on the calendar. Go through that process and you’ll likely end up with the ultimate product: a nice boost in your individual donor fundraising.

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About This Blog

Carrie Saracini
Content Marketing Manager

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

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