Crash Course: Your 7-Step Nonprofit Fundraising Plan
What’s the No. 1 predictor of fundraising success? It all comes down to creating a nonprofit fundraising plan. Just by taking the time to reflect on your goals and put a plan into writing, your nonprofit will be in a better position to meet your fundraising objectives.
In this article, we’ll explore the seven steps nonprofits can take to build a successful fundraising plan. Then, we’ll get you started crafting your own fundraising plan with a variety of free templates.
- Step 1: Reflect on last year’s fundraising plan.
- Step 2: Identify existing resources.
- Step 3: List activities to attract, renew, and upgrade donors.
- Step 4: Create goals for each fundraising plan activity.
- Step 5: Identify fundraising plan focus areas.
- Step 6: Put your fundraising plan on the calendar.
- Step 7: Set yourself up for success.
- Sample Fundraising Plan Template
While the exact details of every nonprofit’s fundraising plans will be different, this crash course will explore a few strategies that can apply to almost every situation. Let’s get started.
Step 1: Reflect on last year’s fundraising plan
If you had a fundraising plan last year, begin by assessing how well you followed it. Gather data from your fundraising software and other available sources, such as donor feedback surveys, past budgets, or even interviews with staff members.
By analyzing your past fundraising plan, you can identify where you succeeded and what could be improved on. When looking at your data, ask yourself 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 accomplishments you’re proud of.
- What were your biggest challenges? Reflect on what didn’t go as planned or where you want to focus more attention, time, or resources. This could be specific improvements to ongoing initiatives, like meeting with prospective major donors more frequently, or entirely new goals, such as launching a recurring giving program.
By reflecting on your past fundraising plan, you’ll be able to build on your old strategies and create targeted goals for this year.
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. Most organizations will start this process by taking a look at their:
- Budget. How much does your nonprofit have to spend on fundraising? Are there restrictions you have to consider, such as grant stipulations, bequests, and donations given to specific campaigns?
- Staff. Consider your staff’s time and expertise when planning your fundraising strategy. If you want to launch a new fundraising program, do you have the staff on hand to run it? Will you need to recruit volunteers or invest in training opportunities?
- Technology. What technology does your nonprofit currently have and are you in need of an upgrade? Assess if your current platforms are still scaling with your efforts or if it’s time to invest in a new software solution.
By taking inventory of your current resources, you’ll be able to build a fundraising plan based on tangible assests and constraints. This will make your goals more realistic and ensure all of your resources are leveraged to maximum effect.
Step 3: List activities to attract, renew, and upgrade donors.
Make a list of activities that will help grow your individual giving programs. Think about activities that will help with:
- Donor acquisition. To expand, your nonprofit will need to recruit new donors. To attract new donors, try launching a new marketing strategy, expanding to different marketing channels, hosting a peer-to-peer campaign, partnering with other organizations, and hosting events that are open to your local community.
- Donor retention. It’s far more cost effective to retain your current donors than replace them with new ones. You can retain your donors through activities such as personalizing communication, collecting and implementing donor feedback, and suggesting options to make recurring giving easy.
- Upgrading current donors. Each of your donors will increase in value over time, but only if you ask them to consider increasing their donation amount. Activities that can help you upgrade your current donors include creating a membership program, starting a planned giving program, conducting prospect research, and generally improving the donor experience.
While you may focus more heavily on one of these aspects to align with your current goals, ensure you account for all three in your fundraising plan. After all, new donors are far more worthwhile if you retain them, and retained donors are at their most valuable when you take steps to upgrade them.
Step 4: Create goals for each fundraising plan activity.
After analyzing where your nonprofit currently is fundraising-wise, it’s time to establish some solid goals. Here are a few components to consider when setting new goals:
- Dollars raised. What is your total annual fundraising? Base this year’s goal on your total raised last year.
- New donors. How many total donors do you have? Compared to last year, how many do you think you can practically attain this year?
- Recurring gifts. Has your nonprofit developed a recurring gift program? What can you do to get more donors enrolled in it?
- Board participation. How much has your board contributed to hitting your donation and supporter acquisition goals? What can you do to encourage them to do more?
The great thing about this process is that it gets everyone on the same page about your priorities and ensures they understand potential impacts if you change course or don’t reach a goal.
Step 5: Identify fundraising plan focus areas.
After establishing your goals, determine what specific activities you can take to accomplish them. When implementing any new activity or program, consider how it fits into your overarching strategy.
For example, if you want to recruit new donors, you may decide to expand your online outreach. This goal can be broken down even further into specific online activities. 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 fundraising plan on the calendar.
A fundraising plan feels a lot more doable when you map out the work over time. Set deadlines—think of them as mileposts where you can gauge your success. Use whatever tool works best for you: paper calendar, Excel spreadsheet, an online tool that syncs with other things, or a downloadable template.
Start with existing commitments—events, board meetings, grant deadlines, staff vacations—and put them in the calendar. Knowing you want to get something done that you can share at the July board meeting can be a great motivator. Or, if you see that the end of April is crazy, you’ll be able to balance your schedule ahead of time.
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. While this calendar may change as new challenges and opportunities arrive, having a roadmap will keep you on track all year long.
Step 7: Set yourself up for success.
Identify what helped you do well in the past. By reviewing last year’s fundraising plan, you should understand what strategies and practices work best for your nonprofit. Even with new goals, many of these strategies will likely still appeal to your supporters, help keep your team motivated, and ensure your resources are being used wisely.
Here are a few strategies nonprofits often implement to ensure they stay on track and fulfill their fundraising plan:
- Create an accountability system. To ensure everyone follows through with their tasks, determine how you will assign specific projects and check in on them. For example, you may partner up team members or use your project management tool to assign each task to a specific person.
- Block out time for high priority tasks. Determine your highest priority tasks and set aside time to see them through to completion. For example, you might create a specific time dedicated to calling donors and checking in with major giving prospects.
- Hold regular team check-ins. Meeting with staff will provide opportunities to ensure everyone is on track, share information, and make plans to unblock anyone who may be stuck on a project.
When your team does succeed, make sure to let them know and celebrate. If your team falls short, take the time to assess what could have been done better and make a concrete plan for how you’ll approach that goal in the future.
Sample Fundraising Plan Template
To help your nonprofit develop a new fundraising plan, here are a few free templates: