What’s the number one predictor of fundraising success? It all comes down to creating a nonprofit fundraising plan. In short, it’s not the fundraising plan itself, but the act of planning. Simply taking time to reflect and put goals in writing is the leading indicator of how much you’ll bring in this year, be it donors or dollars.
In our Nonprofit 911 webinar The 7 Steps to a Stellar Fundraising Plan, Third Space Studio’s Heather Yandow and Caryn Stein, vice president of communications and content at Network for Good, shared how your organization can create a nonprofit fundraising plan for success.
Step 1: Reflect on your past year.
If you had a fundraising plan last year, look at how well you followed it. Gather data from your fundraising software. Or maybe you have to rely on memory. That’s okay. Use what you have.
Start with these questions:
- How much did you raise last year? List your fundraising activities and their outcomes.
- What were your biggest successes? Look at where you made an impact and the things you’re proud of. You can build on these.
- What were your biggest challenges? Reflect on what didn’t go as planned or where you want to focus more attention, time, or resources, like meeting with donors or launching a recurring giving program.
Step 2: Identify existing resources.
What do you have now that can help your fundraising? Be realistic about resources in terms of availability and limitations. Money is the obvious one, but also look at time, staff, volunteers, and technology.
Step 3: List activities to attract, renew, and upgrade donors.
Now you’re ready to dig in. Make a list of activities that grow your individual giving program. Think about donor acquisition, donor retention, and upgrading current donors. Give equal weight to all three, because it costs much less over time to acquire, retain, and upgrade a donor than trying to fill that funding bucket year after year.
Step 4: Create goals for each activity.
Knowing what you’re aiming for is really important. A few goals to consider:
- Dollars raised
- New donors
- Recurring gifts
- Board participation (dollars or donors)
The great thing about this process is how it helps everyone agree to priorities at the get-go and understand potential impacts if you change course or don’t reach a goal.
Step 5: ID three focus points.
Pinpoint three areas to focus on over the year to help meet your goals from step four. We know, for example, that online is really powering growth in individual giving. You might focus on launching a peer-to-peer campaign or participating in #GivingTuesday. If you’re just getting started in online giving, making your donation pages mobile-friendly and branded should definitely top your list.
Step 6: Put your plan on the calendar.
A fundraising plan feels a lot more doable when you map out the work over time. Set some deadlines—think of them as mileposts where you can gauge your success. Use whatever tool works best for you: paper calendar, Excel spreadsheet, or an online tool that syncs with other things.
Start with existing commitments—events, board meetings, grant deadlines, staff vacations—and put them in the calendar. Knowing you want to get something done to share at the July board meeting can be a great motivator. And if you see that the end of April is crazy, you’ll avoid starting new projects then.
Write in your monthly and seasonal focus areas. Maybe March is when you target new monthly donors, and fall is busy with #GivingTuesday and year-end planning.
Step 7: Set yourself up for success.
Identify what helped you do well in the past. Some ideas: Find an accountability partner to check in with and make sure you’re following through on tasks. Set aside a specific time dedicated to calling donors. Hold regular team check-ins to report results, brainstorm, and share resources. And always take time to celebrate your fundraising wins!
Sounds doable, right? It is! Now that you’ve taken the crash course, download Nonprofit 911: The 7 Steps to a Stellar Fundraising Plan for a deeper look at having your best year yet.