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The Essential Guide to Writing a Fundraising Plan

Build your fundraising plan with the help of this guide.
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Nonprofits with written fundraising plans consistently outperform organizations without them. However, many nonprofits lack these important guiding strategies. One study found that 37% of organizations with budgets under $1 million and 22% of organizations with budgets over $1 million don’t have a fundraising plan in place.

A fundraising plan defines clear goals, keeps your team on track, provides accountability, and ultimately helps you raise more for your cause. But where should you start when writing your plan?

In this quick guide, we’ll explain the crucial steps your team needs to take to build your fundraising plan.

6 steps to creating a fundraising plan

While every fundraising plan looks a bit different, they all involve the same planning steps and core components.

1. Assess past performance.

The first step in making a fundraising plan isn’t thinking about the future — it’s taking stock of your past. Establishing a baseline rooted in past successes and failures allows you to set measurable, realistic goals.

Look back at your previous fundraising initiatives and outreach campaigns to assess your strengths, challenges, and opportunities. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Which fundraising sources offer the best return on investment?
  • How well are we engaging with our donors?
  • What were our donor retention and new donor acquisition rates?
  • How many of our fundraising initiatives reached their goals?
  • Who are our most loyal donors? What do we want to learn from them, and how will we ask?

Answer these questions and review the data from past campaigns to understand where your organization currently stands and how you can build on past performance.

2. Define goals.

Writing down your goals encourages you to clarify objectives and identify the tasks and timeline needed to complete them. The best goals are SMART goals: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound.

Here are a few examples of SMART goals you might set for your organization:

  • We will plan and launch a monthly giving program by September 1. We will engage at least 100 donors in the program.
  • We will recruit two volunteers to join the board development committee. We will train them and have them in place by April 15.
  • We will grow our donor base by 10% by June using direct mail appeals, social media posts, and our giving day campaign.
  • We will improve overall donor retention by 5% (to 50% overall) by creating and implementing a donor-centered stewardship plan. This plan will include at least seven meaningful, personal thank you touches in a six-month period.

Define your goals by looking at your past performance and your nonprofit’s future growth plans. What can you reasonably achieve with the tools and capacity you currently have?

3. Update your case for support.

Your nonprofit’s case for support is the reason you give donors for why they should contribute to your cause. When building a fundraising plan, it helps to have a solid case for support you can rely on to craft your fundraising and marketing initiatives.

When you can organize your messaging around a guiding idea or theme, you’ll have an easier time communicating to donors about why they should support you and what their support will accomplish.

Refresh your organization’s case for support by:

  • Conducting audience research. Has your organization’s audience evolved or grown recently? Conduct audience research to assess the demographics, interests, and motivations of your supporter base. This helps you ensure you’re creating a case for support that appeals to your unique audience.
  • Incorporating storytelling. Centralizing your messaging around a single person or story helps you build empathy among your audience members. Use storytelling techniques, such as introducing the main character, the issue your organization is trying to address, and your proposed solution.
  • Connecting donations to impact. Donors want to know that their contributions will actually make a difference. Make sure your message includes specific descriptions of how you’ll use donations. For instance, you might explain that a $100 gift can purchase supplies for 10 shelter dogs, or a monthly $20 donation helps keep your children’s after-school program running.

Once you’ve revamped your case for support, you can incorporate it into your email, social media, and direct mail campaigns, as well as your in-person donor meetings.

4. Identify fundraising methods.

What are the actual fundraising initiatives, campaigns, or events you’re going to launch in order to reach your defined goals? For example, you might decide to plan:

  • Peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns
  • An auction/gala
  • A social media challenge
  • A fundraising 5K/Fun Run
  • A direct mail campaign
  • An email campaign
  • A giving day/Giving Tuesday challenge

Choose your fundraising initiatives based on events and campaigns you’ve had the greatest success with in the past as well as what you think supporters will be most interested in moving forward. For instance, you might have held most of your fundraising events in person in the past, but recently discovered that supporters are interested in attending virtual or hybrid events. You can incorporate these event types more moving forward to appeal to supporters’ current preferences.

5. Prepare your marketing channels.

A strong fundraising plan also needs to include the marketing channels you’ll use to get the word out about your fundraising initiatives. These marketing channels might include:

  • Social media
  • Email
  • Direct mail
  • Your website
  • Local news/radio
  • Google Ads

Review your donor profiles and marketing engagement analytics to determine your target audience’s preferred communication platforms. Then, focus your efforts on those channels to connect with the right people. This allows you to keep your focus on marketing channels that will deliver a higher return on investment (ROI) for your campaign.

6. Determine and assign responsibilities.

The next step in crafting your fundraising plan is assigning responsibilities to your staff, board members, and other volunteers and adding them to a calendar.

Your fundraising plan should clearly define:

  • Each overall goal (fundraising amount to hit, donors to connect with, etc.)
  • The individual, team, or department in charge of working toward that goal
  • The associated fundraising initiatives you will launch to help reach that goal
  • Benchmarks to hit along the way
  • The events you will host to support that goal

With a clear plan, you ensure all team members are on the same page and aligned on your priorities. However, that doesn’t mean your plan has to be set in stone. Unexpected circumstances and challenges frequently arise throughout the course of carrying out any strategy, along with new opportunities you might not have thought of. Keep your plan flexible and adjust it as needed to account for these obstacles and opportunities.

Keep in mind that to carry out your fundraising plan effectively and efficiently, you’ll require the support of dedicated fundraising tools. This includes platforms like your:

  • Nonprofit CRM to store and manage donor information, identify your most and least engaged donors, and pull fundraising reports
  • Email marketing software to help create campaigns and analyze email engagement metrics
  • Social media scheduling tools to help you develop an active social media presence
  • Event planning software to plan and manage your fundraising events and volunteer staff
  • Matching gift database tool to follow up with match-eligible donors and encourage them to submit matching gifts through their employers

If you’re lacking any of these solutions and looking to expand your technology stack, be sure to choose solutions that integrate with your existing software. This allows for streamlined data migrations and keeps all of your fundraising activities under one roof. Then, if you want to pull names from your donor database to create an event guest list, or create an email campaign to connect with match-eligible donors, you can easily do so.

Looking for more information about creating and carrying out an effective fundraising plan? Review Bloomerang’s additional resources on the topic:

Bloomerang’s fundraising solutions help nonprofits build and launch effective fundraising plans.

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  • Jane Baxter Lynn

    This is an excellent, fundamental approach that any size nonprofit can implement.
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