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How to Create a Strong Fundraising Plan for Your Nonprofit


Fundraising is an effective way to finance activities for your nonprofit organization. Putting a strong plan in place may be time-consuming but will always be worth the effort. In this article, we will share some tips to help you optimize your planning, devise some of the best fundraising ideas, and prepare you to meet your fundraising goals. 

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What Exactly is a Fundraising Plan?

Fundraising is the lifeblood of any nonprofit as donor support is key to funding vital activities and fulfilling the mission of your organization. And yet, many organizations have yet to master how to create a truly successful fundraiser. 

A fundraising plan is a guide that uses strategy and creates clear, actionable goals to take you from a fundraising idea to a successfully completed campaign. It defines a vision for your supporters to get behind, and creates a series of milestones to get you there. 

fundraising-plan-for-nonprofit-what-isMatt is ready to get started on his fundraising plan!

The types of fundraisers may vary. For example, you may want to launch a peer-to-peer fundraising campaign or seek corporate sponsorship. Similarly, there are also different fundraising forums e.g., innovative virtual fundraiser ideas vs. "real world" events. Creating a detailed strategy can help you succeed, regardless of the options you choose. 


How to Create an Effective Fundraising Plan 

As with any kind of event planning, there are a series of guidelines that should be followed to get the best results. Next we will take a look at some general fundraising tips for nonprofits to help make your planning sessions effective. 

Build on Your Existing Plans and Identify Your Vision

There is no need to start from scratch, even if you have not launched fundraising campaigns before. Draw conclusions from your own past experiences and current information to determine how to best create your plan. For example:

  • Identify your target audience

  • Decide which type of fundraising campaign would be most effective for your audience e.g., if your key demographic is young professionals you may opt for a virtual fundraiser or one of many silent auction ideas

  • If you have run or participated in fundraisers in the past, what has worked best for you? 

Pro Tip: Another thing to focus on in these preliminary stages is your event vision. Imagine a vision board or a dream board specific to your event. If you do not currently have a vision, now is the time to create one! A vision is a short and sweet aspirational portrait of what your nonprofit hopes to achieve. It should be specific to your nonprofit, concise, consistent, and compelling. 

Set Clear and Realistic Objectives

Get a clear picture of what kinds of goals and objectives will work well. Here are some questions you want to ask and answer in this review:

  • What are our funding needs at this time?

  • What are our current fundraising methods (phone, email, social media)

  • What skills/talents/experience are present in your team or volunteers that we can utilize for our campaign?

  • How much funding can be set aside to launch the campaign?

  • Who are our current donors and what other sources of funding are available? (e.g., corporate donors)

Use the information gained from this review to create a series of goals for your fundraising. Goals need to be precise and tangible. Unfortunately, a generalized statement will not work, they need exact figures in order to be able to measure their success. For example, a non-financial goal  might be to increase visibility on social media by increasing your page likes by 20%. During goal setting, include key milestones (both financial and non-financial) and do not forget to create a timeline for your milestones. 

List Your Resources

First, think through your financial means to run a campaign. For example:

  • Are you looking to run a short-term and a long-term fundraising plan?

  • If so, how will you allocate the resources for each.

 Ensure you have enough financial resources at your disposal. For example, you may want to launch a gala, but may not have the funds to rent a room. Making sure your budget fits your idea is key to making your campaign successful.

Next, consider your staffing situation. 

  • Who is your core group of fundraisers? 

  • Which of your members, volunteers, or staff are willing to use their skills to advance a campaign? 

  • What other projects are in progress right now? 

  • Can you reallocate someone’s time toward the new campaign? 

Recruit the individuals that are willing and able to offer their specialized talents for your event. These skills may dictate the trajectory of your fundraising plan. If you have a passionate volunteer who is a stellar artist, for example, you may have them head up a Sip and Paint night charity event. A volunteer with a strong social media presence may agree to do a Social Media Takeover for your organization to solicit funds. Making sure you have enough person-power to manage your campaign without anyone burning out or putting too much strain on your team, is critical to success.

Blog_Images-articles_Sadie-thinkingSadie is brainstorming on creating her fundraising plan.

Lastly, contemplate your communication and management tools. 

  • Do you have a fundraising software platform or CRM tools?

  • Do you have updated email and newsletter distribution lists?

  • Which active social media accounts and crowdfunding sites for nonprofits are already in place, and are they aligned with the target customer base? 

You may already have one or more of these in your arsenal. Alternatively, you may decide that it is time to invest in one or more that would be most impactful to the kinds of campaign you plan to run. Let’s use payment processing as an example. If you do not have the capacity to accept payment by credit cards but you want to run an auction, this is a big problem. You need to think through all aspects of your campaigns and which tools, services, and knowledge you need to enhance to support your idea.

Start Connecting the Dots and Create a Campaign

At this point, you have a vision, series of goals and objectives, and a timeline for each step. Now it is time to start bringing it all together!

  • Validate the strategy with your entire team on the campaign you are running. You do not want to be halfway through the process and come across disagreement or conflict among your members. 

  • Divide the work between the members of your team. Anyone who is meant to have a strong leadership role is well-aware of what they are meant to accomplish, how they are meant to accomplish it, and any deadlines pertaining to these duties.

  • Create the media required for your fundraiser. Videos, images, copy, and fundraising pages on your website. Have them done ahead of launch and ready to go out on the schedule you have created for your campaign. 

  • Communicate actively. A campaign can only be successful if donors know that it is happening. Use a variety of channels to get the word out to your supporters: email, social media, and word-of-mouth. 

Pro Tip: You might be focused on acquiring new donors for your organization, and we do not blame you for that! However, it is important to remember to work on recurring donors as well. This will increase your bottom line, as previous donors have already proven that they are willing to give to the cause. Not to mention that they can be a huge help in bringing in new donors if you run a peer-to-peer fundraising campaign. 

Follow up on Your Fundraising Results All Year Long

Even as your campaign is in full swing, you should already be analyzing the data. This is a good way to make any minor tweaks or changes to improve efficacy, or lean in to any actions that are clearly performing well. 

Pro Tip: Yes, you want to analyze your data along the way. However, be sure not to make any hasty decisions. Ensure you have accumulated enough data in order to make a sound choice (finding this happy medium is hard, but possible!)

Once the campaign is complete, it is time to do a deep-dive analysis that tracks all of the performance metrics. First, focus on whether the organization met, exceeded, or fell short of its goal. Then you can move on to the more in-depth numbers such as:

  • Year-over-year growth

  • Donor volume

  • Number of repeat vs. new donors

  • Percentage of donors who increased or decreased their donation amount

Use this data to inform your future fundraising events. While your organization may not be able support large events year-round, you can always be planning smaller short term and long term giving opportunities. 


Specific Methods Used to Create a Fundraising Plan

If creating a fundraising plan from scratch is a bit overwhelming, there are some tried-and-true methods you can use to build a campaign. 

The Donor Growth POT

This simple yet effective fundraising plan consists of filling in four key categories:

Priorities: Identify the most important drivers of this specific campaign. This can include things like donor retention, donor acquisition, or how to engage your donors both short and long term.

Plays: What actions will you perform to get you to your goal? Whether it is a live event like a gala or crowdfunding for nonprofits, create a list of steps to get you there. 

Omissions: To create clarity, also identify the actions that you do NOT want to perform. Think about the limits your organization is working with, and omit plays that could possibly stretch you too thin or create burnout. 

Targets: These are goals that you want to hit throughout the course of the campaign. It is a best practice to build these goals on the SMART goal model. Each goal should be:

  • Specific

  • Measurable

  • Achievable

  • Relevant

  • Time-Based 

Responsive Donor Growth Plan

The responsive donor growth plan is based on the idea that today’s givers insist on authenticity, and meaningful relationships with their charities. By personalizing your approach, you can reach potential donors who may not give in a more traditional model. Social media has made this particular plan easier to achieve, as it offers a platform for impactful storytelling and a large reach. There are three steps to the responsive donor approach: listen, connect, and suggest.

Listen: In the listening stage you try to find out what your donors are telling you. This can be through data analysis, polling, direct conversation, or social media observation. Finding out what moves your donors is the best way to connect with them during a donation campaign. 

For example, if you find that most donors are not opening and reading fundraising emails, you may want to find a more impactful way to reach supporters. Or if most of your donors are not on Instagram, that is not the platform you want to use for donation drives. However, if you find that your target audience is obsessed with video storytelling–you have a great way to reach your supporters. 

Connect:This is where you take the steps to make your supporters feel like part of something bigger. Think about how you can inspire your audience, how you can create a sense of belonging. Storytelling is a big piece of this, and can be accomplished through any number of mediums: live stream, video, infographics, text, images, or any combination of these. Here are some great social media fundraising ideas you can use to boost giving for your nonprofit. 

fundraising-plan-for-nonprofit-specific-methodsAnthony is ready to flex his fundraising plan skills!

Suggest: Once you have established a relationship, it is time to help your people step into action. This action can be a financial ask, such as a donation, inviting them to an event, offering volunteer work that supports your cause, or asking them to join your mailing list.

Fundraising Action Plan

A Fundraising action plan takes one of the previous plans and revs up the results by considering the systems, processes, and people in place to turn that plan into action. 

Systems: First, decide what systems you have to support your plan. As we mentioned previously, this includes software like marketing automation, payment processing, and fundraising platforms. 

Processes: Next, detail what your plan will look like in action in the day-to-day. Think about what activities are happening, who is in charge of each activity, and how, and when, you will measure progress. 

Consider utilizing check in dates. They are very similar to milestones, but are more of an expanded concept. Instead of simply creating deadlines, check in dates allow you to gather information at recurring, scheduled times. This includes assessments of smaller goals, identification of trends, and figuring out how to improve performance. 

People: Without strong roles for a campaign, you can end up with both confusion and redundancy. Be sure that you clearly communicate to each person on the team their tasks and duties. There should be no unclaimed plays, and if there is an overlap in responsibilities, decide which party will be in charge of that particular action. 


Final Thoughts

Fundraising is a day in day out part of nonprofit life. To avoid spinning your wheels and frustrating your team, it is imperative to ensure that your fundraising process follows a clear plan. There are so many revenue streams that will overlap: applying for nonprofit start up grants, cultivating corporate sponsorships, email campaigns, and special events. 

Take the time to set up a plan for each of these fundraisers, so that they run their courses smoothly, and streamline the finances and labor involved. This way, your organization will have a steadier income stream, as well as a fulfilled and enthusiastic staff to bring your vision to the community. 

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💡What is a fundraising plan?

A fundraising plan is a strategy that clearly outlines goals, actions, and a timeline for your organization’s fundraising campaign. Find out more. 

🔑 Why is it important to prepare a fundraising plan?

Having a plan in place clarifies your vision, identifies the most valuable actions, and avoids confusion and/or redundancy in team roles. This allows your nonprofit to create a fundraiser that is truly effective. Find out more. 

📝 How to create a fundraising plan?

No, just in the beginning to establish the tax-exempt status. Find out more.  

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