Sandy Rees, CFRE recently joined us for a webinar in which she showed seven simple steps to creating a written plan so you can raise all the money you need to fully fund your budget in the coming year.

In case you missed it, you can watch the replay here.

Be sure to grab Sandy’s free 1 Page Quick-and-Simple Fundraising Plan

Full Transcript:

Steven: All right. Sandy, my watch struck 3:00. Is it okay if I go ahead and get us started officially?

Sandy: You bet. Let’s go.

Steven: Cool. Good afternoon, everyone, if you are on the East Coast. And I guess I won’t have to say good morning because this is a special 3 p.m. Eastern edition of the Bloomerang webinar series. So thanks for joining us today. We’re going to be talking about Seven Steps to a Simple, Successful Fundraising Plan. My name is Steven Shattuck, and I am the Chief Engagement Officer over here at Bloomerang. And I’ll be moderating today’s discussion.

And just a couple of housekeeping items before we get started officially. Just want to let everyone know that we are recording this presentation, and I’ll be sending out that recording as well as the slides later on this afternoon, if you didn’t already get those. So if you have to leave early or if you perhaps want to review the content later on, you’ll be able to do that. Don’t be afraid to leave if you need to. Just look for an email from me later on this afternoon with all those goodies.

And as you’re listening today, please do feel free to use the chat box right there on your webinar screen. I know a lot of you already have, that’s awesome. We’re going to have to save some time for Q&A at the end, so don’t be shy about that at all. We love to keep these very interactive, as interactive as we can. We’ll try to answer as many questions as we can before that 4:00 Eastern hour.

And you can follow along today on Twitter. If you use Twitter, you can use #bloomerang and send us a message at @bloomerangtech. And you’ll see Sandy’s Twitter handle as well here in just a second. So we’d love to keep the conversation going there was well.

And if you have any audio difficulties, these webinars are usually only as good as your own Internet connection. So if you’re listening through your computer, it’s usually a little bit better quality by phone. If you have any trouble and if you don’t mind using your office phone or your cell phone to listen in to the audio, you can find a phone number in the email from ReadyTalk that went out just about an hour ago. Usually a little bit better there. It’s always a good idea to maybe restart your computer if you have any problems. But we’re going to keep on trucking just for the sake of time and all the people who are already connected.

And just in case this is your first Bloomerang webinar, I want to say an extra special hello to you folks. We do these webinars just about every Thursday. We bring on a great guest, like Sandy today, to give a totally educational presentation. It’s one of our favorite things we do at Bloomerang. But our core business is offering donor management software. So if you are interested in that or maybe if you’re going to be in the market for that some time in the future, check us out. You can even download a quick video demo and get a look at the software. Don’t even have to talk to a salesperson if you don’t want to. So we’d invite you to learn more about that if you are interested.

But for now, I am super, super excited to introduce one of my favorite people, and I mean that honestly. It has been way too long since we had Sandy Rees on our Thursday webinar, so I’m really happy for you to be here, Sandy. How’s it going?

Sandy: Great. And I’m really excited to be back.

Steven: Yes. We have over 1,000 people registered for this webinar. It’s one of the highest ones we’ve ever had. And I am not surprised at all, because Sandy is awesome. I’m just going to brag on her just a little bit. I won’t be long, I swear, Sandy.

But if you don’t know Sandy, if you don’t follow her on or follow her on Twitter, you got to. She’s an awesome blogger, she’s an awesome trainer. If you see her name at an event, you’ve got to go to her session. She’s had her CFRE designation since ’03. She’s raised millions of dollars for her training clients and all the nonprofits that she helps throughout the year through grants, events, direct mail, all the things that she’s going to be talking about today. She writes for her own blog, she contributes to “Fundraising Success” magazine, and she does way more volunteering than I could possibly fit on this slide.

I don’t know how you do it, Sandy, in addition to all the other cool things you’ve got going on. She’s an animal lover. If you are an animal welfare group listening today, especially maybe an equestrian aid group listening today, Sandy is the person for you. I’m just so excited, Sandy. I’m going pipe down. I’ve already taken way too much time away from you, so why don’t you go ahead and tell us all about successful fundraising plans?

Sandy: Yeah, let’s talk about that, because it is January, it’s that time of year to be talking about planning, right? I know for some of you, you may be thinking oh yeah, I should be getting a plan together, but how do I do that and what goes into it? So if that’s what you’re thinking about today, you are in the right place.

We’re going to talk through some real simple steps to putting a fundraising plan together, and I’ll give you some practical tools that you can take and use right away. I’m not real big on theory and very esoteric thinking. I like to give people stuff they can take and use right away. Give those tools, those nuggets you can put into place and start to see some results. So that’s what I want to get for you today.

So if you have a big vision for your organization, if you are what I call a passionista, if you are very passionate about the work your organization does and you know that if you just had more money you could do so much more good in the world, you’re my people. You’re in the right place. Because really, what you need is a treasure map. And truly, that’s what a good fundraising plan can be. It can help you stay out of that reactive mode where you’re always fighting fires and always up against the last minute, trying to get stuff done. I have been there and that’s not a fun place to be, and that’s not where I want you to be.

So here’s real quickly what I’m going to cover today. I have a lot of stuff that I’m going to be throwing at you today, right and left, so if you don’t already have a pen and paper, you may want to grab something you can take some notes with. You do have the slides, and just take a few notes, would you?

So here’s what I’m going to cover real quick. Five ways that people get stuck with planning. And the reason I’m going to share those with you is because when you know what those are, you can be prepared for them and work around them and not stay stuck. Because staying stuck does not help you raise more money.

I’m going to show you a little bit about how to evaluate historical data so that you can make sure that you’re planning from the right jumping-off spot. We’re going to look at the three main goals that you must include in your plans. I’m going to talk to you about an impact goal and what that is, why you need one, how to put one together. And then how to start choosing the right strategies for you. It’s really simple, really easy, really common to look around and see what other people are doing and think oh, we should be doing that, too. And that’s not the best way to choose strategies. So if that sounds good to you, buckle up and here we go.

Steven said some really nice things about me. I’m going to tell you a couple things that I want you to know. I’m a fundraising coach and work with a lot of what I consider small organizations, some mid-size organizations, and almost all around annual fund, because I believe it’s important for you to be able to raise those dollars that you need to keep the operation going, keep the lights on, staff paid, and all that.

I love training. I teach at all kinds of workshops and all kinds of conferences and things around the country and love those in-person activities so much that I even started my own three-day workshop. We did that last summer for the first time, and it was a lot of fun. Everybody had a great time and learned a lot. I’m author, huge animal lover. This is a picture of a couple of my dogs. One’s a rescue, one’s a stray, so if you work in animal welfare, you’ll know what that means. But great dogs. I’m all about the animals.

Here’s what I want you to know about me. I was not born knowing how to do fundraising and I don’t remember signing up for it at career day. I doubt many of you did either. In the late ’90s I had an opportunity to go to work at my local food bank. I had done marketing before then, corporate marketing for a staffing company and had the opportunity to go to the food bank. And I thought you know what? This all looks like marketing except we’re not selling a service, we’re selling a warm fuzzy.

So I had the most amazing opportunity in that I was the development director, my executive director said go raise money, see you later, and she kind of got out of my way. And I had amazing opportunities just to try stuff out, to look at what had been done before and tweak it and try some things and see what other food banks were doing, and I learned a lot.

The first year, I threw a lot of spaghetti at the wall. I’ll just be really honest about that. Because frankly, I didn’t know what I was doing. I had some marketing skills, I could speak, I could write, but I didn’t know anything about fundraising. So I used what I had and what I knew, and it didn’t take long before we were raising a lot of money. A lot of money. We, inside of about four years, we went from raising about $250,000 a year to about $1.1 million, which was pretty cool and I was very proud of that. We grew the donor base from about 1,200 to about 8,500 donors, a lot of grant money. Bought trucks, added staff, it was really cool.

So that’s kind of where I’m coming from is figuring a lot of stuff out myself by process of elimination, frankly. And what I want to do is share with you a lot of things I figured out the hard way so that you don’t have to. I don’t want you to have to go through what I did to figure out why you need a plan, how to put it together, the pieces that you should include or not include. I just want to make that easy for you. So that’s my story.

So think of your fundraising plan as a treasure map. It’s going to show you where the Xs are, the X marks the spot, where you put the shovel in, where you should start digging. Because a lot of times that’s what it’s all about. It’s about figuring out those opportunities that are going to bear the most fruit for your organization. And what works for you may not work for somebody else.

I’m going to give you a couple of truths that I live by and that I teach, teach my students, my clients. So the number one is when you raise more money you can change more lives. If you’re a passionista, you understand what I’m talking about. It’s all about changing lives. It’s all about making a difference in the world. In fact, some of you may be saving lives.

Truth number two, when you work from a plan, fundraising is easier. Because you’re not at the last minute, you’re not trying things out, you’re not testing everything. It’s so much easier when you have a plan. It’s less stressful, you’re not suffering from shiny ball syndrome, where you’re chasing every one of the latest things that’s coming down the pike. You know exactly what you ought to be working on every day. It’s just less stressful, it’s easier, and frankly, it’s more fun. Can I get an amen and hallelujah to make fundraising less stressful and more fun? Uh-huh, that’s what I thought.

So here’s five sort of surprising reasons why a lot of people don’t plan. Let’s look at these, and as I go through these, you think about if any of these describe you.

The first one is should-ing. A lot of people don’t plan because they’re like well, I should know how to do this, I should be able to figure this out, and then they can’t and they get frustrated or they get stuck and so they don’t do anything. It’s almost like there’s some indecision that creeps in and when they can’t figure out and they know they should–and as a smart person, they should be able to figure this out–they just get stuck and they don’t do anything.

Another reason that people resist planning is because they are perfectionists. Now I can raise my hand on that. I tend to be a perfectionist, and I’m real sure that some of you are as well. And when you’re a perfectionist, the fear is if I don’t get this right, there will be some kind of consequence. And if I don’t know exactly how to do this fundraising plan right, I don’t want to do it at all. And so we get stuck and we don’t plan and we stay in that day-to-day, almost crisis mode sometimes. And that’s not a fun place to be at all.

Another reason why people don’t plan is what I would call rigidity. They think that if they put this plan on paper, it’s carved in stone, and there’s no room to adjust, there’s no room to change anything. And that becomes very frightening and so they won’t plan. Because they don’t want to be held accountable for whatever is in that plan.

Another fear is inadequacy. We’re afraid that maybe we’re not good enough, maybe we’re not smart enough to really put the right plan together. And so we don’t want to look stupid, we don’t want to look dumb, and so we just don’t do anything, which again, is not helpful.

And the last reason that I find that a lot of people don’t plan is what I call imposter syndrome. And I bet some of you have this, too. Imposter syndrome is when you think well, who am I? I don’t really have a whole lot of experience with fundraising, who am I to try to figure this out and put a plan together? I don’t know enough, I haven’t been doing this long enough.

What I find when I do this workshop in person, and I can ask people like which one of these is you, a lot of people really resonate with one or more of these. And I find that a lot of what hooks people up is this it’s either some kind of fear, some kind of consequence that we’re making up in our head. And all that slows us down and keeps us from putting the plan together that really can change the game for our organization.

So if you know that one of these is you, then what we need to do is figure out what’s the little step that you can take that’s going to help you start to get over it, around it, or work through it. If you’re a perfectionist like me, then you may have to say well, maybe I can’t get the plan perfect, but if I can get it to a minimum requirement that I might have, then at least if I can get it good enough then I can get moving and get something accomplished, and that’s better than nothing.

I’ll just let you sit with that for a little bit. The big takeaway that I want you to get from that piece is that done is better than perfect. Done is better than perfect. An imperfect action will always win over inaction. So if you get stuck, you don’t get your plan done, I guarantee you won’t raise as much money as if you get even an imperfect plan together. Imperfect action will always win over inaction. You can write that down. A good takeaway.

Because when you have a plan, you’re going to be laser focused. You’re going to know exactly what you’re working toward. You’re going to know what your overall goals are. You’re going to wind up being more productive. You’re going to have more confidence. And you’re going to be able to leverage better. You’re going to leverage yourself better, you’re going to leverage your systems better, and so forth.


[SP] is saying that sometimes the reason you don’t plan is because not enough time. And I think really, I find that to be an excuse. And frankly, I do that too sometimes. I’ll think well, I just don’t have enough time. Usually the not enough time really is a mask for another symptom. It either is I don’t know where to start. I’m not going to take the time to figure it out. Sometimes that’s what happens as well. I know everybody is super busy. You have more to do on your plate than you can possibly get done. And that’s the beauty of having a plan, is it can keep you focused and moving in the right direction, so that you can use the time that you have to the fullest that you possibly can.

So let’s dig in, then, to seven steps to a simple, successful fundraising plan. I’m going to give you the overview on these, and you’re going to see really quickly that yeah, these steps are simple as well, and there’s a whole lot more underneath them. There’s way more that you could be doing. There’s way more that you can dig into on each one. But I want to at least get you started thinking and to get you started grasping the limits and concepts that are really going to be able to help you. And I’ve got some tools that I’m going to give you as we go.

So let me give you the overview real quick of those seven steps, and then we’re going to dig into each one. Number one is to learn from the past because that’s the best predictor of what you’re going to be able to do this year.

Number two is to shine a guiding beacon. Now what the heck does that mean? I’m going to show you in just a minute. But that is going to be super helpful for you. That’s one of the things that I always do when I’m working with an organization is to figure out what their beacon is.

Number three, we’re going to set three critical targets. There’s one that I guarantee all of you are probably setting and you may or may not be setting the other two, but you need all three. Number four, you’re going to get to put on your Super Cape. We all have a superhero cape that we can don that’s going to help us with planning, and I’ll show you what that is.

Step number five is choosing the right strategies. And you don’t pick strategies just because somebody else is. Number six won’t surprise you. Write it down. And then number seven is about course correcting. So that’s where we’re going with these seven simple steps, or seven steps to a simple fundraising plan.

So step number one, learn from the past. So the first thing that we’re going to do is have a look at your data. You never want to decide what to put in your fundraising plan based on a feeling. You always want to base it on data. So you’re going to want to dig in and do some analysis on what you’ve done in the past. I have a whole worksheet that I fill out when I’m working with somebody to go figure out, based on some broad categories, what is working and what is not working.

You know how sometimes somebody will ask you, “Well, how did you do on that newsletter?” and you’re like yeah, it looks pretty good, it wasn’t that great. And that’s based on a feeling. If you can say oh, well, it was good because we raised this much money, we had this big of an ROI, that’s what we’re looking for here. We want to have some hard data that we can make some decisions from. And if you aren’t measuring, you can’t manage it. You can only manage what you measure. So you do want to make sure that you’re into some detail, and tools like Bloomerang will really help you do that, so that you can go back every year and look at how well did your fundraising strategies perform.

You want to decide what is your minimum ROI. ROI is return on investment. What’s your return on investment that you want from everything that you do? When you, for example, when you hold an event, how do you decide if that event was successful? If you raised as much as you spent, is that worth the time to do it? Or do you want make sure that for every dollar you spend on an event that you raise two? Or if you’re doing an appeal and you send it through snail mail, what’s your minimum ROI? So you want to get really clear about that.

Now it might be different. Maybe for an event you think well, if we could raise $2 for every dollar we spend, we’ll be happy with that. If we’re sending out an appeal we want to make sure we’re getting four for every one that we spend. You want to start to figure these things out because then you have a yardstick by which to measure your activities and measure your progress. Hopefully that’s making sense to you. Otherwise, you’re going to make decisions based on how you feel about things. Not the best idea.

So you want to think about are you looking for four to one, two to one, break even, what’s that ROI look like for each one. And if you’re not sure about that or if you’ve never thought about this before, then you can certainly go back and start to calculate. You can look at your event from last year or your appeals or your monthly giving, your major gifts, whatever you’ve done, and look at how much you raised versus how much you spent. And for some of those, you’re going to have to be really honest and figure in your staff costs as well so that you can have some really clear, hard numbers to try to work from.

I always find that again, historical data is the best predictor of what you’re going to be able to do moving forward, and so there’s not always . . . Maggie’s asking what are some good ROIs for some of these different things. It can vary from strategy to strategy, from organization to organization. So you may have an organization does really well with an event, another one may not be able to. It just depends on your situation. So you need to know your numbers and what historically you have done, and then you can have a really good idea of what you’ll be able to expect in the future.

Then what you want to do, once you start to think about what you want your minimum ROI to be, is look at each activity, look at everything from appeals, events, grants, monthly giving, major gifts, planned giving, everything you’re doing, and ask yourself did we reach our minimum ROI on that activity. Yes or no, that should be a really simple answer. If you know what you’re expecting from that activity you can look at the number and then it’s a very simple yes or no, it’s very clear. If the answer is no, then you can ask yourself well, is there a way we can improve it, or has that activity run its course.

Sometimes they do. Sometimes you can have an event that works really well. I remember the big event that we did when I was at the food bank was a big sit-down dinner for 1,000 people. Just go ahead and laugh at me, it was insane. Yes, it was. And we did really well with that event for many years. And then the new wore off, the polish wore off, and it became clear that there was nothing we could do to improve that event, it had run its course and it was time for it to kind of . . . it was time to put it to bed and to do something different. That can happen. The only way that you’re going to see that is if you’re looking at these numbers every year.

So here’s what I teach in my Fundraising Blueprint course, is how to evaluate all those activities and ask yourself what should you keep. In other words, if an activity is doing really well, it’s meeting your minimum ROI, you want to keep doing it because it’s making money, it’s productive, so it goes into the keep category. What can you do again and tweak it? Maybe you have something that’s going on that it’s not a bad activity but it’s not a great activity either. And maybe there’s a way to tweak it and make it super productive.

And maybe there’s some things that you need to just dump. It’s something that you’ve tried, it didn’t work, it was a horrible disaster, you just don’t need to do it again. Stop doing it. You have to learn to let those things go with a lot of grace. Sometimes we become very emotionally attached to some of our activities and we really don’t want to let them go, but again, we have to make these decisions from our data.

So that’s the data analysis in like a three-minute, four-minute nutshell. You can see there’s so much more that we can do there. There’s so much work to do there. But what I want you to take away from that is make your decisions based on data, not on feelings. That, if you don’t take anything away from this today but that, it’s going to serve you really well.

All right, step two is about shining a guiding beacon. Well, what the heck do I mean by that? Well, you’re probably all familiar with the concept of a lighthouse. A lighthouse is on the shore to warn ships of rocks. It gives you a place to easily find. It throws out a light far in the distance, and you can always kind of navigate, kind of depending on where that light is shining and steer away from the rocks, right?

So in nonprofit in fundraising, that beacon is what I call an impact goal. It’s a big goal that you want to try to accomplish this year that you can always go back to, to make sure you’re always on track. So for example, maybe at a food pantry or a food bank, your impact goal might be to feed 10% more people this year. For some of the animal rescue organizations that I work with, they want to try to increase the number of animals served. Maybe they want to double it. Maybe they want to take their community to no-kill. Maybe there’s something else that you want to be able to set as your impact goal. But it’s a very measurable goal. It is something that you can probably hit during the year. And it’s something you can always go back to.

And I work with a lot of animal rescue groups, so we do a lot of like 20% increase, 50% increase, those kind of things. And here’s how that works. If your impact goal is to double the number of animals that you save, then everything you do during the year should be moving you towards that goal. It is your beacon. It is the light coming out of the lighthouse. So that you never do things just because it seems like a good idea or it might be fun. You’re doing it because it’s going to help you double the number of animals you save. You see that?

So it just shines that beacon, you just keep it in front of you all the time. That’s your impact goal, that’s how you’re trying to impact the community and impact the lives that you’re serving. So you may have to go back and really think about that. What is your impact goal? That actually may be a great question to throw out at your next board meeting and let your board have some input into that as well. It might be a great one to throw out at a staff meeting and see what your colleagues think about that. What does everybody want to work toward? When everybody participates in that conversation, by the way, you’ll usually get more buy-in and more people will have ownership and more interest in really helping move toward that impact goal.

All right. So hopefully that is nice and clear. So a couple of you have asked, because you have organizations who are really new, that you don’t have any data to go from. That’s okay. So if you don’t have any data to work from in step one, there’s a couple of other steps that are coming up that are going to be really super helpful for you. So don’t worry about that one too much right now. If your organization has been around for a little while and you’ve got some data, then definitely want to look at the data. But if you don’t, hang on, there’s a step coming up. When we start talking about getting your superhero cape out, it’s going to be really helpful for you.

All right. Step three, we’re going to set three critical targets. Now a lot of people are all about what I consider target number one, and that’s the number of dollars to raise. Hopefully all of you are there. You ought to know exactly how much money you need to raise this year to fund the work your organization is going to do. If your thought is, well, I just want to go raise as much as possible, I’m going to say go back and try again. It’s really hard to get donors excited about raising as much as possible. Raising as much as possible is all about your organization. When you can tell donors you want to raise $152,000 so that you can do X, Y, and Z, that’s a whole lot easier to get people on board with.

So the first one is exactly the dollars that you want to raise. The critical target number two is the number of donors that you want to renew. I know Bloomerang keeps an eye, a close eye on donor retention. I’ve heard Jay speak many times about donor retention. He was actually at my event last summer, talking about that. We do want to keep a really close eye on our retention rates. How many donors are we renewing? If you’re not, then you’re going to wind up with a big problem if you’re not really consciously paying attention to how are we renewing our donors, how are we preventing the lapse, how are we communicating with them. Because all those things are just going to feed in together.

It’s really tough to raise all the money you need if you don’t have a big loyal donor base. If you don’t have a group of people around you who want to see you succeed, that can be really hard. You want to keep your eye on that. If you don’t know your donor renewal rate, you may want to go calculate that. I think a lot of the software tools these days, like Bloomerang, will calculate it for you, which is great, kind of fantastic, I love that.

Target number three goes right along with renewal, and that is acquisition. How many new donors do you need to acquire to compensate for the ones that you’re losing and to grow your donor base so that you’re providing opportunities for new dollars? And one of the things that I do with clients, and if I had time to do this I would show you how to calculate the number of new donors that you need to acquire. It would take me too long to do that today. But that is something that you can do, is figure out how many new donors do we need to get. And it’s all based on your historical data.

Your plan needs to take these three targets into consideration, so it can’t just be here’s how much money we need to raise. It needs to be how much money do we need to raise, how many donors are we going to renew, how many new donors are we going to acquire. And then all your activities, all your strategies need to feed into those three things. Hopefully that’s making sense.

So the question you ask yourself then, as you start choosing strategies later is, is that renewing donors or is that giving us an opportunity to acquire new donors? Do we have enough activity built in so that we can meet our acquisition goal? You’ve got to keep your eye on all three of those targets within your fundraising plan.

All right. I feel like I’m zipping through here. We are halfway through our time, and now in step four it is time to put on your Super Cape and put your hands on your hips and say da-da-da-da. Yep, everybody has a Super Cape. Your organization has super strengths and you do, too, and you want to make sure you’re taking all those into consideration when you’re putting your fundraising plan together.

Here’s what that looks like. Your organization has assets, and I don’t mean money and I don’t necessarily mean the building. You have things going for you that are going to make fundraising easier, things like this. Name recognition. You may have amazing name recognition in the community. I certainly had that when I was at the food bank. Everybody knew, they recognized the name. They might not know everything that we do, they may have some of the facts wrong, but they recognize the name.

You might have a strong brand or really well-known leaders. Maybe you’ve got a broad-reaching or well-loved cause. Maybe like most of the animal shelters don’t have trouble with that because everybody, most everybody loves the idea of saving animals. So that usually is what we would consider a broad-reaching or well-loved cause. Maybe you’ve got a great facility or a location that’s in a super spot. Maybe you have a big donor base or a very dedicated volunteer base.

What I want you to do is really think through what you have as assets and make a short list of those so you can make sure and leverage those within your fundraising plan. I’ll give you an example. I worked with a group several years ago that had an email list. So this was just about the time that people were really starting to build an email list and send out a newsletter and that sort of thing. They weren’t really raising a lot of money but they had this email list and it had about 10,000 names on it, which was very impressive at the time.

I said that’s fantastic, how often do you communicate with them? And they said once a month. The first of every month, we send out a newsletter, and they showed me one, and it was pretty good. And I said that’s great. When’s the last time you’ve asked them for money? And they looked at me and said asked them for money? That was an asset that they were sitting on that they had not leveraged for fundraising. Now to me, that’s a big why would you not do that? Why would you not ask these people for money? It had never occurred to them.

You want to look around and see are you sitting on something like that that’s a huge asset that’s just never occurred to you to leverage it in one way or another. By the way, we put an appeal together, an e-appeal, and sent it out, and they raised, I don’t know, like $12,000 in a week. It was crazy. And so then from there, we put a plan together for cultivating those people and staying in touch with them and asking them, and that became a very strong fundraising strategy for that organization.

So you want to really look at what your organizational assets are. If you have a great facility that lends itself very well to a tour, then you want to make sure that that’s part of your marketing and outreach effort. I hope this is all making sense for you.

Then you also want to think about your personal strengths. Now here’s one of those situations where you don’t want to do what everybody else is doing. One of the things that I teach a lot of people is if you want to acquire new donors, then you’ve got to figure out who exactly you’re looking for, and build sort of an ideal donor profile, and you’ve got to go figure out where to find them. And a really good spot for almost everybody is to go out and do speaking gigs. Go out and speak to your local Rotary Clubs, your other civic clubs, sometimes church groups, sometimes other groups. You want to do that.

But if speaking is not your strength, if you would rather have your fingernails pulled out than go out and do a presentation like that, then you don’t need to put that in your plan. You want to put things in your plan that play to your strengths. If you’re the one that’s going to have to do the fundraising, play to your strengths. So that’s when you want to really pull out your superhero cape and think about what you’re really, really good at. What things are you either excellent at or you’re just brilliant at and they’re super easy for you to do and you always get compliments on them? You definitely want to include those kinds of activities.

If you pull up activities that are not in your realm of expertise, they’re going to suck your energy. You’re going to dread them. They’re going to be what I call heart-sink activities, that every time you see them on your calendar or on your schedule, your heart sinks. So you don’t want that kind of stuff. You want to make sure that the things that you are including are things that are going to be fun and easy for you to do.

All right. Step number five, time to start choosing the right strategies. So what we want to do is start looking for the intersection between things that are organizational assets, maybe it’s something that you did last year, it worked really well, you’ve checked your ROI, it is definitely a keeper. It’s something that is going to play to your strengths or maybe somebody else in your department, if you have multiple people in your fundraising office. And everything is just all lining up here for that to absolutely be something that you want to include in your plan going forward.

Now if you’re thinking, especially for those of you who are just getting started, like well, I’m not really sure, what should I include, how do I figure this out, how many events do I do, should I be doing monthly giving, should I not, I’m going to give you a couple of tips on that. I actually have three tools that are going to help you choose some of the right strategies. And you just see if some of these will be helpful for you.

The first one is what I call the 1-10-1,000 rule, and this works really well for small organizations and organizations that don’t have a huge donor base. So let me explain how this works. What you want to do is have one event, do one event, do it really well, and hit it out of the park. Make it your signature event. Which means everybody in town associates that event with your organization. They look forward to it, they have a great time at it, and there’s a lot of buzz in the community about it.

In the Knoxville area, if you were in Knoxville, I could say Rubber Duck Race, and you would say Boys & Girls Club. They’ve been doing the Rubber Duck Race for years, everybody in town knows that’s their event, it’s a fun event, it’s their signature event. A signature event can be any kind of event. It doesn’t have to be a gala. It can be anything, as long as it’s something that you make a lot of money, you get a lot of awareness, you’re generating a lot of buzz with that activity. And you’re not doing event after event after event. That’s really the key here, is you don’t want to do a lot of events, you want to do one and do it really well.

You want to do 10 grants. Why 10? Because it fits in the 1-10-1,000 rule really easily. No, 10 because we, here at Get Fully Funded, we do some grant work for some people and we find that we almost always can find 10 pretty hot grant leads for an organization. What I mean here is don’t leave grant money on the table. Now if your organizations, for those of you with brand new organizations, you may want to skip this for a little while, because a lot of foundations want to see a couple years of history first.

But for those of you whose organizations have been around for a little while, just make sure you’re not leaving grant money on the table. Go do research periodically, just make sure that you have a full deadline calendar that you know what you need to be applying for, you’re not missing grants. They’re just too easy to include in your plan. Most of the time you ought to be able to get grants. That’s a whole other conversation that we could have.

And then 1,000 is 1,000 donors. If your donor base is below 1,000, then you need to shoot for building it up to 1,000 donors. Why? Well, I know that a lot of small organizations have budgets that are less than $100,000, and we’ve done the math on this to figure out like what’s the right number of donors. If you have an event that’s doing this much and you have grants and you’re getting a reasonable amount of grant money and if your donors are giving an average of this amount . . . and I could show you all this math but I don’t quite have time today to do that, but just trust me on this . . . if you don’t have 1,000 donors, build it to 1,000. If you have more than 1,000, go add another 1,000. The more donors you have, the less reliant you are on any particular donor, and the more you have what we call diversified revenue streams.

And that actually leads me to tool number two, which is what we call the 25% limit. What this means is that no individual revenue stream should make up more than about 25% of your total revenue. Why? Well, if that one thing goes away, you’re going to have a hard time. So for example, if you have one grant . . . and I have a couple clients like this who are reliant on one grant and it was a state grant in both cases, and guess what? The state budget went down. The grant money went down. All of a sudden they were in panic mode because now their money that they’ve been counting on is decreasing and they’ve got to raise it from someplace else.

When you have diversified revenue streams, like you can see in this pie chart, you are minimizing that risk. So Deanne’s asking are you saying an organization should limit to 10 grants? No. Absolutely not. Go get all the grant money that you can. What I’m saying is don’t leave grant money on the table.

All right, let’s see, and Racy’s [SP] asking about the 1,000 donors, does that include special events or would that specifically be annual fund donors? I’d be looking for annual fund donors, people who give because they love your organization, not necessarily because they’re attending an event. And actually I’m going to get to that in just a second.

So hopefully tool number two, the 25% limit, is making sense as well. That you just want to be really careful and not become too reliant on any one revenue stream. Any good businessperson will tell you that you do. You want to have money coming in from a lot of different places. You want diversified revenue, diversified income. Because then if something happens to one of those, it’s a little bump in the road. It’s not going to completely sink your organization.

Amanda, you’ve got a problem. Amanda says, “What if your boss wants you to keep writing grants, but you have a grant that is 87% of your total budget already?” You have one grant that is 87% of your budget, you have a huge problem. You need to take this pie chart back and go explain to them about the 25% limit, and then start to increase other opportunities. Other grants, that’s fine, because if you get a grant for 10,000 here and 10,000 there, 5,000, whatever, that’s fine. But just be careful about one grant that takes up more than about 25%.

All right, tool number three is what we call type balance. Fundraising strategies, fundraising activities fall into two categories. They’re either transactional or they’re transformational. Transactional fundraising is when people get something in return for their money. I always think of Girl Scout cookies. I love Girl Scouts, I have Girl Scout clients, and cookies are very transactional. Know in the spring, for a couple of months, it’s going to be cookie season and you’re going to walk up to Kroger or to your grocery store and there’s going to be six-year-olds out there, hawking the Thin Mints. And you’re going to give them your, whatever they are now, $4 or $5, and you’re going to get your box of cookies, and you’re going to go happily on your way. I mean, it is a fundraiser, but it’s not what I would consider true fundraising because you’re getting something in return.

So you want to be really careful that you don’t have a whole fundraising program that’s made up of transactional fundraising. Because those people are not necessarily dedicated to your cause. They’re not there to see you win. They’re there for the thing that they’re getting in exchange for their money.

With transformational fundraising, people are giving because they love the work your organization does and they want to see you win. So what I’ve tried to do is list for you some of the different types of transactional and transformational fundraising so you can kind of get the difference here. If I’m your donor and I love the work that your organization does, I’m going to give because I want to see you do good work. I love the work you’re doing. I want to see you do more of it. Not necessarily because I’m going to get a mug in return or I’m going to get something in return.

Yeah. There are times when that’s fun and don’t get me wrong, I’ll be the first one to bid at your silent auction, because I love those things. But what you want to do as a fundraiser, as a fundraising professional, as you’re putting your plan together, you want to keep an eye on this. You want to have more transformational fundraising than transactional. You want to make sure that you have more opportunities for people to give because they love you, because those people will stick around. They will, over time, some of them will start to give more and they will give longer than people who are getting something in return.

All right, let me see. Was there a question here? Nancy says with tool number two, we’re distinguishing between revenue stream and revenue source because individuals make up almost 60% of your revenue. That’s fine. That’s fine. If individuals giving is 60% of your revenue, that’s fine. Because if you lose one donor, unless that one donor is giving a disproportionate amount of money compared to everybody else, you’re going to be okay. You’ve got it. You’ll be all right.

All right, let me move on. And we’ll get to step six, which is to write it all down. Because if it’s not in writing, it’s not real, just like this sweet little unicorn on the page. If your plan is in your head, it is not a real plan. I know some of you have this situation where you have some ideas about some things you want to do. It’s all kind of, you just kind of keep it in your head because you haven’t taken the time to write anything down, or maybe you’re suffering from one of those stuck places that we looked at earlier. Maybe you’re a perfectionist or you’re should-ing on yourself or there’s something else going on. But here’s the truth. If it’s not in writing, it’s not real. So get it in writing.

Now what should that look like? I find that a lot of people get really stuck around what format to use. They think oh, well, I need to know how should I do this, like give me the right template and I’ll fill it out. Give me the right paper and I’ll get this going. The truth is I don’t think it really matters. So I think you can use, you can use like a Word template. We’ve got one we call Fundraising Blueprint that we use with our clients, and it’s just a series of worksheets you can fill out. Or you can use an Excel sheet, and the Excel page that I have here is actually part of the plan that I used when I was at the food bank. That’s just a little piece of it. And you can see I have a lot of detail in there, a lot of numbers.

I don’t think it really matters what format. It matters what format is going to make sense to you. Because if it makes sense to you and it seems easy to you, you will use it. If you jump into Excel and you don’t like Excel, you’re not going to use it and it’s not going to be helpful. So pick what works for you. If you need to look at a couple of different formats, do that. Jessica’s asking about the template. As a matter of fact, I do. Hang on, I do have a template I’m going to share with you. Everybody can say yay.

What I want you to get from this is make it work for you. I’ve seen way too many people put a plan together, stick it in a binder or in a file folder, it goes on a shelf or in a drawer, and they never look at it again. That is not helpful. That’s not going to get you very far if you do that. So do it in a way that’s going to make sense for you.

Then the next thing that I want you to do, and actually this is part of keeping a plan alive, is doing what I call course correcting. Course correcting will help you reach your destination. I don’t know how many of you know much about planes and flying, but it may fascinate you to know that when you get on a plane, let’s say, in Indianapolis and you’re heading toward Orlando, that plane is actually not on course quite a bit of the time. Because of the winds, because of air pockets, because of things that happen, whether it’s on autopilot or the pilot is actually doing something, there’s this constant course correction that happens so that the airplane stays on course and eventually makes it where it’s going. And you’re going to do the same thing with your fundraising plan. You’re going to do this constant course correction.

So one of the things that I would encourage you to do is to make a date with yourself on the first of every month to review your plan, see where you are, and course correct. If you don’t ever look at your plan, you won’t know if you’re on target, if you’re off, if you’re ahead of the game, are you behind. To me that was such a game that I played with myself when I was a development director and I had the most fun with it, was to look at my plan and look at my actual numbers. So I know I’m a total nerd, and I get that, and I’ll admit to that.

But the day that our finance guy would get the financial statements, like the monthly financials done, I would grab them and go sit down with my plan, I had a spreadsheet, and I would start plugging numbers in to see where am I. Am I ahead of the game, am I behind, am I right on track, how am I doing. And it was just such a game to me to see can I get ahead and stay ahead. That was fun to me, to always be sort of raising more than I had on the plan for this particular month and year to date. It was just a lot of fun to look at those numbers.

If you’re not a numbers person, then you’re going to have to figure out how you’re going to keep up with some of these things. Maybe you have two or three key indicators that you can look at for yourself. I probably looked at way more numbers than I needed to. But I guarantee for all of you, there are two or three, there’s a handful of things you need to keep up with. If you’re not sure what those are, let’s see, that was step number three, where we set three critical targets. Remember I told you, you need to know the exact number of dollars you need to raise, the number of donors you need to renew, the number of donors you need to acquire. If you don’t look at anything else, look at those three numbers every month to see how you’re doing. And that way you won’t get to the end of the year and go oh, crap, what do I do now.

So you do want to get your plan all put together and then stay on course and do some course correcting. I find the easiest way to remember that was to mark it on my calendar for like the first Monday of every month or the day that the financial things came out. Whatever day that was, and I would literally mark it on my calendar to go back and check on the fundraising plan and see how we were doing, see if we were on target with where I wanted to be.

So now what? Now we need to do . . . I have absolutely fire-hosed information at you for the last, oh, 40 minutes or so. Now what do we need to do? I would recommend that you go back and really work through and think through some of these steps. Go back and really think about what your beacon is, what is your impact goal. Go back and really think about your three targets. Think about what your organizational assets are. Think about what some of these things are for you. Write them down. Include some other people in the discussions if you need to, but get started putting this together.

Now I alluded to this and I will go ahead and mention, I do have something that I call the “1 Page Quick-and-Simple Fundraising Plan” that I am going to give to you. And this is a tool that I literally made up when I worked at the food bank because I realized that I was behind on some things. Like the grant deadlines would sneak up on me and it seems like I was always late getting the newsletter out. So I literally created this and put this together and I would tweak it as I used it, but not a whole lot changed over time. And now I use this with, I use it with a lot of clients and I give it away to a lot of people, and people love it. The nice thing about it is you can use it in Word, you can use it in Excel, you can tweak it, you can add stuff to it, whatever you want to do.

There’s the link. Don’t type in the www. For whatever reason, it gets kind of weird. Just go to, and there’s a short little opt-in, and then we’ll email you the “1 Page Quick-and-Simple Fundraising Plan” and I think you’ll really like it. If nothing else, it is a simple way to at least get a handle on some broad-stroke fundraising strategies across the year. And then you can go back and really start thinking about well, which ones of these strategies are what’s playing to our strengths and which one is leveraging our organizational assets and how are we going to reach our three critical targets and then to be able to look at the whole year and see what’s happening and when.

If you get this one page done, you can literally print it out, keep it on your desk, then you should be able to see at a glance what’s coming up. You can see those times when you’re going to have five or six things going on all at once, and that happened to me the first year. I put this together myself and then I realized in the month of February I had three grants due, a newsletter I was trying to get out, and I’d also put an appeal down for that month. And I thought what was I thinking. And I was able to go back and I couldn’t move the grant deadlines but I could move the other stuff or I could start on things earlier. And it made all the difference in the world for me, for my sanity, for my creativity, and it made me more productive.

So I recommend that you go grab that at, and then stay in touch. I’d love to hear if you start using that or if you run into a problem, you’ve got a suggestion, or something cool happens, you can go find me at a number of places. And let me know what’s going on.

Steven: Awesome. That was really great, Sandy. Everyone should download that plan. I just share the link in the chat, so go to that website and download it and subscribe to her blog, too, because it’s really awesome.

Sandy, this was great. Thanks for taking an hour out of your day to do this for us. And I know you were answering questions along the way, but we’ve got a few more minutes if you’re willing to hang around till 4 to answer some more, we can do that.

Sandy: You bet. Yeah, you bet.

Steven: All right, cool.

Steven: Yeah, I’ll go through here. We’ve gotten some of them come in. If you haven’t asked a question, if you’ve been sitting on your hands, now is the time, because obviously Sandy knows her stuff.

Marly [SP] here is wondering do you have any suggestions, Sandy, on how to persuade your superiors to change the fundraising strategies. So how do you buy-in for all this stuff that you suggested from . . . Maybe your boss didn’t listen to this webinar but you did and you really like it and you want to get some persuasion going. Any tips for Marly there?

Sandy: Yeah, that can be hard, especially if your boss has a real different philosophy about fundraising than you do. Here’s what I do. Here’s the trick that I use. I do this with boards sometimes, I do this with executive directors. And that is, I go back to the impact goal. What is it we’re trying to accomplish this year? And if everybody is in agreement that we’re looking for a 20% increase, we want to double, we’re going to eliminate a waiting list, whatever that is, then as long as everybody agrees on that, then we can say okay, then we need to make sure that with the limited amount of resources we have in terms of time and energy and money, that we are doing the things that are going to move us the furthest, the fastest toward reaching that goal. And normally that’s enough to get people to go yeah, we should.

But that’s the first thing you want to do, is get an agreement about something. The last thing you want to do is go in and go well, we’re doing this wrong. We need to change it up. Because really, who’s going to be receptive to that, right? So get in agreement about something, which usually is the impact goal, and then say all right, let’s look together at these strategies and make sure that we’re choosing things that are going to use our time as wisely as possible and our energy and dollars and get us to that impact goal.

Steven: What about boards, Sandy? So you just talked about superiors a little bit, but how do we get the board involved? Is it any different, any different strategies? What if you have a board in general that is not very involved in anything besides just this fundraising plan and other aspects there, any tips for getting the board involved in all this good stuff?

Sandy: Yeah, we need like a whole other hour to talk about boards.

Steven: I know.

Sandy: Okay. So a couple quick things about boards. Number one, we’ve got to understand that we know as staff, we know what the board’s job is. Board members typically do not know what their job is. So we have to understand that first of all. Number two, they typically come with a lot of fear. They’re very afraid of what they might “hitting their friends up for money.” So what we want to do is, one of the best things you can do actually is when you get a plan together, even if it’s this 1 Page Quick-and-Simple Plan, go sit down, and I would do this individually with board members, and show it to them and say here’s what we have planned. Where do you see yourself plugging in to help?

Steven: Cool.

Sandy: And let them pick what they want to do, and you’ll be way more likely to get at least some participation if not all the participation you’re looking for. If you let them pick . . . don’t try to tell them what to do . . . let them pick.

Steven: Love it. Here’s one from Mark. Mark’s on a really tight budget. I know that you’re kind of a small-shop gal, Sandy, and maybe you’ve given a lot of advice already on this, but tight budget, small shop, what’s your number one tip to get started here? Is it find the donors? Is it research? Is it planning? What do you think they should do? Throw an event?

Sandy: Well, so are we talking about we don’t have enough time or we don’t have enough money? Those are different.

Steven: It looks like money, tight budget in Mark’s case. Yeah.

Sandy: Okay. So tight budget. So if we had time, I would show Mark concentric circles. Think of a bull’s-eye and that your staff and key volunteers are in the center of the bull’s-eye. So what you want to do is start in the middle and work your way out. Think about those people who already are most likely to care about your organization and give them a way to get more involved, whether that’s making a donation or becoming a monthly donor or whatever that is. What I’m normally looking for when I’m working with a small shop is the low-hanging fruit. What’s that thing that’s going to get the money flowing in quickly that’s going to either bring some relief or just give us a small win so that people feel excited and ready to move on to the next thing.

I guarantee you, Mark, and if anybody else is in a similar situation, you’ve got something that’s right around you that’s ripe for the plucking. That if you just look at it and go oh, we have all these volunteers who are coming week after week after week and working in our program, and we’ve never asked them to give financially. Start there. Some of them will, some of them won’t. And then you might ask those people who else do you know that we should invite to support our organization. Because they may have friends and family and all kinds of connections that they would be happy to bring in, but it’s never occurred to them to do that.

Steven: Yep. I love it. Sandy, this is awesome. We’re really coming up on the 4:00 hour and I want to give you the last word, to tell people how they can find you, how they can get in touch. I know there were a few questions we didn’t get to, but assume you’d be willing to maybe take questions by email or Twitter later on? Is that cool?

Sandy: You bet, you bet. Yeah, if you guys, you can either go to my Facebook page, you can ping me on Twitter, email me, that’s all great. I’d be happy to answer all that I can.

Steven: Very cool. Well Sandy, this was really awesome. Thanks for doing this. This was apropos for January. I’m really glad we did this in January. I don’t think we could have done it at a better time. So thanks for being here.

Sandy: My pleasure. Yeah.

Steven: And thanks all of you for taking time out of your day. I know it’s probably a busy time of year, maybe you’re doing some gift acknowledgements and year-end receipting and all that good stuff, so thanks for hanging out with us for an hour or so as well.

You can also find lots of goodies on our website as well. We’ve got a lot of free resources. I’m going to be sending out the recording of this presentation, so if you joined late, have no fear, you’ll get that from me over the next hour or so. You’ll get the slides as well. We’re taking a break from our webinar series, but we will be back two weeks from today. On January 26 we’ve got Amy Eisenstein, and she’s going to talk about what else, major gifts, that’s her thing, she’s the major gift expert. So if you are interested in major gift fundraising in 2017, you’ve got to attend that session. It’s going to be really good, Amy is super smart. Just like Sandy, you won’t be let down. So register for that.

If you see something else on our webinar page, another topic that interests you, we’d love for you to register for that as well. We’ve got lots of other sessions available for registration throughout the coming year and we’d love to see you again on some other Thursday.

So we’ll call it a day there. Thanks again to Sandy and all of you for hanging out with us. Hopefully we’ll see you again in a couple weeks. So have a good rest of your Thursday and have a great and safe weekend and we’ll talk to you again soon.

Kristen Hay

Kristen Hay

Marketing Manager at Bloomerang
Kristen Hay is the Marketing Manager at Bloomerang. From 2018 - 2020, she served as the Director of Communications for the Public Relations Society of America's local Hoosier chapter. Prior to that she served on several different committees and in committee chair roles.