With the new year comes a fresh start in many respects. For some, it’s a new chance to hit physical fitness goals, or maybe even take up a regular volunteering effort with a local nonprofit.
For your organization, however, the new year represents a clean slate for fundraising. Barring any ongoing or long-term campaigns such as a capital campaign, the new year often marks the reset of your fundraising goals and activities.
After evaluating your successes (and failures) from the year before, it’s the time where you outline each task your nonprofit will complete and set a timeline to truly get things done. This plan sets the tone for all of your nonprofit’s activities for the following year, so you really want to take your time with it.
We’ve outlined six steps to guide you through the process and set a strong foundation for the year’s activities:
- Assess your fundraising strategy from the year before.
- Collaborate with your entire team when setting goals.
- Create and prioritize measurable objectives.
- Look beyond direct fundraising goals.
- Realize this plan isn’t set in stone.
- Consider bringing in an outside opinion.
With Giving Tuesday and Year-End 2019 behind us, the time to begin fundraising in 2020 is quickly approaching. If you haven’t built your fundraising strategy for the new year just yet, it’s time to get started!
1. Assess your fundraising strategy from the year before.
Before outlining your strategy for next year, reflect on the path you followed through 2019.
Spend some time in your nonprofit’s CRM, checking out metrics from your major fundraising pushes. Evaluate your most successful fundraiser for what worked; evaluate your least successful fundraiser for what didn’t. Even further, consider surveying your most ardent supporters— what did they enjoy about your activities in 2019? What didn’t they?
It may be helpful to bring in an unbiased third-party, such as a nonprofit fundraising consultant, to conduct this year-in-review. Do a quick evaluation of your efforts and use it to inform your strategy going forward.
2. Collaborate with your entire team when setting goals.
This Bloomerang post outlines a few scenarios during which creating a strategic plan for your fundraising isn’t the best idea, and they pretty much all boil down to moments when your team isn’t acting like one. We agree!
It’s essential to get input from your entire team— including your board members, staffers, and any other people consistently involved with advancing your mission— when outlining your fundraising plan. Ask these collaborators about your nonprofit’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and vulnerabilities.
3. Create and prioritize measurable objectives.
Avoid setting broad, wide-sweeping generalizations when creating your fundraising plan for 2020. Set measurable objectives for your nonprofit to hit, actions you’ll take to hit them, and benchmarks for measuring progress along the way.
Consider the goal of securing more major givers in 2020:
- Goal: “We want to build strong relationships with X number of major supporters.”
- Actions: “We will examine our supporter data for giving affinity and capacity, and work with a fundraising consultant to facilitate major supporter stewardship activities.”
- Benchmarks: “We will evaluate major giving progress at the end of every quarter.”
There are a ton of different measurable metrics your nonprofit can chase, including supporter retention, fundraising ROI, supporter acquisition rates, and more. Setting numerical goals, and outlining specific benchmarks for revisiting them, ensures no goal is lost in the mix of the many tasks your organization handles each day.
4. Look beyond direct fundraising goals.
As you outline fundraising activities for 2020, filling your staff’s calendar with the fundraisers you intend to complete, an annual fund push, and maybe even the beginnings of a forthcoming capital campaign— don’t forget supporter retention in the mix.
While you are technically outlining your activities for just one calendar year, try to think with a strategic planning mindset. That is, while keeping in mind how your nonprofit will grow over the next 1-5 years.
As you plan each fundraising activity for the year, include the supporter retention practices you’ll include with it. This could be as simple as making time for thank-you phone calls, or more involved major giver activities. Operating in such a manner will help build your fundraising capacity as you go forward.
Learn more about operating from a long-term mindset and nonprofit strategic planning more generally through this Averill guide.
5. Realize this plan isn’t set in stone.
Now, even though you’re outlining specific metrics for the year and specific fundraising activities to reach those goals, it’s important to realize that none of this is set in stone.
No amount of planning can prepare your nonprofit for everything it might encounter throughout the next year, whether that’s changes in leadership, changes in external fundraising climate, or even minor changes to your overall activities calendar!
Be specific when crafting your plan, but also prepare to be flexible when carrying it out. This might be as blatant and scheduling in some wiggle-room when setting your fundraising calendar or something less concrete like mentally preparing your team for the challenge of adapting as needed.
6. Consider bringing in an outside opinion.
Creating a fundraising plan from scratch, or even just revitalizing your strategy from the previous year, is no small task. Evaluating your own success, quantifying what your nonprofit should reach for, and being frank about what your nonprofit can realistically achieve is sometimes hard to do with an insider’s eyes.
A fundraising consultant can assist your nonprofit in a wide range of activities, including capital campaign planning, major supporter prospect research, and in the context of this post, outlining your overall fundraising strategy. They provide a fresh perspective on the challenges your nonprofit faces every day and the right consultant can be a worthwhile personnel investment for years to come.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed with building out your fundraising plan or even just seeking a fresh set of eyes, consider bringing on a nonprofit consultant. Further, learn more about hiring, and affording, a fundraising consultant through this guide to consultant fees.
Building your fundraising plan for 2020 can be a stressful endeavor— after all, this plan sets the tone for all of your activities going forward!
Luckily, with some intentional assessments, the help of your team, and the steps outlined above, you’ll be off to a great start with fundraising in 2020.
This article was contributed by our friends at Averill
Author: Bob Happy
Bob Happy brings nearly 35 years of experience providing expert leadership and direction to clients across the not-for-profit sector to his current role as President of Averill Solutions. Before forming Averill Solutions, Bob served as the Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of the nation’s largest fundraising firm. He has mentored hundreds of professional fundraising practitioners and many have joined him at Averill Fundraising Solutions.