The Essential Guide to Writing a Fundraising Plan

writing a fundraising plan

Did you know that organizations with a written fundraising plan consistently outperform organizations without one? It’s shocking how many organizations aren’t writing a fundraising plan.

This phenomenon was recently documented in a study by Adrian Sargent from the Institute for Sustainable Philanthropy

In their study 37% of organizations under a $1 million dollar budget lacked fundraising plans. Only 22% of organizations with budgets over $1 million failed to have a fundraising plan in place.

The biggest shocker, however, is how many organizations do the heavy lifting when writing a fundraising plan, yet fail to evaluate their staff’s performance working on the goals.  

I recently did a training for over 200 nonprofit professionals and 62% of them did not include progress implementing portions of a fundraising plan as part of their employee’s annual evaluation.  

The only way to ensure your staff work the goals is to include them in your employee’s work plan. Why set goals if you are not going to track your success? Lack of accountability is a recipe for failure. Holding yourself and your team members accountable to your goals is the only way to make them a priority. If you don’t you aren’t truly committed to them and it will be easy to give up, because without accountability it’s like the goals never really existed.

3 steps to writing a fundraising plan

People ask me all the time, “What’s the best way to make a Fundraising Plan?”  

While every fundraising plan looks different, they all involve the same three steps to make it and they all have the same three core ingredients.   

Step one: Look back

You can’t set measurable goals to improve things if you don’t have a baseline. As the Cheshire cat said to Alice, “If you don’t know where you are going any road will get you there.”

The most important step in making a fundraising plan isn’t thinking about the future, it’s taking stock of your past. 

Some cage rattling questions you need to ask yourself include: Where do we get our best donors? Which fundraising sources offer us the best ROI? Who are our most loyal donors? What do we want to learn from them, and how will we ask?    

To help you look back I created a 3-page questionnaire, “Your Fundraising Year in Review.”  

Step two: Create goals  

Just the process of writing down your goals makes you 42% more likely to achieve them. How? Writing down your goals forces you to clarify, strategize and identify the tasks to complete them. The very best goals are S.M.A.R.T. goals, meaning they are: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound.  

Sample SMART goals:  

Plan and launch a monthly giving program by March 31, 2021. 

Create a culture of philanthropy among the board and staff where everyone embraces and respects the important role fundraising plays in fulfilling our mission. To accomplish this goal, we will actively train staff and board on fundraising. Next, we will articulate what behavior constitutes a healthy culture of philanthropy and include it in our core values, employee and board orientations and handbooks. Success meeting this goal will be measured in staff’s annual performance reviews or board self-assessments. 

Recruit two volunteers to join the board development committee. Orient them and have them in place by April 15. 

Grow our donor base by 10% by June 1, 2021 using appeals, Facebook, and our local giving day. 

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.

Step three: Plan and distribute responsibilities

The final step in crafting your fundraising plan is assigning owners and adding them to your calendar.  Make sure the goals employees are responsible for reaching are included as part of their annual employee evaluation. 

3 key ingredients to a successful fundraising plan 

While there are lots of different formats for a fundraising plan they all have the same three essential ingredients: 1) measurable goals 2) a calendar and 3) clear ownership.  

Feel free to download our free SWOT analysis guide and template to shine a light on your nonprofit’s future so you can shape it proactively, not retroactively.

Rachel Muir

Rachel Muir, CFRE transforms individuals into confident, successful fundraisers. When she was 26 years old, Rachel Muir launched Girlstart, a non-profit organization to empower girls in math, science, engineering and technology in the living room of her apartment with $500 and a credit card. Several years later she had raised over 10 million dollars and was featured on Oprah, CNN, and the Today show.

Rachel Muir
Rachel Muir
Rachel Muir

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