Jim Rohn put it best when he said “never begin the day until it is finished on paper.” Likewise, it’s naive to launch a fundraising campaign before laying it out on paper. Your plan will detail what to do, how to do it, and when to do it—all this before you commit any resources, allowing you to know if your plan is even feasible.
Unfortunately, writing a fundraising plan that actually gets results isn’t as straightforward. As nonprofit professionals, we may miss important steps that may impact the outcome of our plans, leading us to abandon them a few weeks or months after they are made, and freestyle our way through the entire process of raising funds.
This article will show you how to write a fundraising plan that will drive your organization to meet and even exceed your fundraising goals with ease.
What is a fundraising plan?
A fundraising plan is a collaboratively written document that details how you will conduct your fundraising activities in a given period. It lists the resources you will need, the timelines for each activity, projections of how much you plan to raise, as well as a breakdown of the activities you will use to raise funds.
Benefits of a fundraising plan
Imagine if you start a journey without a map. You would likely find yourself lost before long, leading to a waste of time and resources in getting to your destination. A fundraising plan is like a map. It minimizes the risk of making costly mistakes that can be easily avoided.
Here are just some of the ways a fundraising plan would help your nonprofit:
- Lets you discover new fundraising opportunities that may be overlooked because you are too busy throwing things together as you go.
- Allows you to optimize resource allocation and effectively contribute towards activities that have the best Return on Investment (ROI), ensuring you get more bang for your buck.
- The plan provides a clear overview of what the organization is trying to achieve thus attracting and increasing stakeholder involvement.
- Ensures smooth transition from one fundraising activity to another without donor or employee fatigue.
- Reduces the likelihood of emergency fundraising, as the plan lets you anticipate what needs to be done when.
5 questions to ask before writing a fundraising plan
To make the writing process of your fundraising plan easy and effective, it’s a good idea to have all the essential information ready at hand. So here are some things to consider before you start writing your plan:
1. Learnings from previous fundraising campaigns
Serious about leveling up your fundraising efforts? Then learn from your past. What did you do in the previous year that was great? And what did you do that you should avoid doing again?
Outlining answers to these questions will ensure you improve your fundraising strategies and that you don’t keep on repeating the same mistakes.
For instance, in the previous year, you might have tried sending letters to solicit donations. But upon reflection, you may uncover that the endeavor was expensive when compared to what you received in return. So, you may opt to not do it again this year. Or you may decide to do it differently. This is also serves as a chance to look into the kind of messages your donors connected with the most.
2. Source(s) of funds
Another area to look into is where your funds are coming from. You may decide to step up efforts in areas that hold a lot of potential but are underutilized.
Here are the main categories of funding sources you should be looking into:
- Small to mid-level donors: Most of your donors will be in this segment which makes it essential to devise fundraising strategies ideal for this group. Remember, small gifts are how new donors get started with your nonprofit.
- Major donors: These are donors who give large gifts to your organization. You need to think of activities that will win you more and regular support from these donors as one large donation can be worth many small gifts. So, think of fundraising activities you can use to target your major donors. Phone solicitations, sending handwritten letters, or inviting them to dinners—all are equally good.
- Corporate donors: There are lots of companies that donate to charity. Consider corporate outreach strategies that may help secure donations from such companies.
By considering all three sources, you can be sure to keep your fundraising strategies diversified.
3. Low-hanging fruits / easy wins
Aware of any fundraising strategies that are easy to implement, cost-effective, and have a great ROI? Make a list and keep it handy as you draft the plan. Ensure you weigh the pros and cons for each before you decide to proceed.
4. Latest and upcoming fundraising trends
As you draft a new plan, consider any new emerging fundraising trends that are worth checking out. These could provide new opportunities to grow your funding and your list of donors/supporters.
A great example of this is online charitable gaming, which allows you to host online raffles, sweepstakes, and other charitable games cheaply and easily while allowing you to reach out to more people.
5. Support required to be successful
Also, now is the best time to think of new measures to put in place that will allow you to achieve your fundraising goals with ease. This may translate into activities or tasks such as training your staff, getting new equipment, etc.
5 steps to writing a great fundraising plan
You don’t wait until it starts raining to fix your leaking roof—that’s best to do when the sun is shining. Likewise, it’s best to create your fundraising plans as early as possible. Here are the steps to follow to ensure the plan has the best chance of achieving your fundraising goals.
1. Define your goal
As with any journey, the first thing to do when creating your fundraising plan is to think of your goal—how much money do you want to raise?
Keep your estimates ambitious (this will ensure you are not leaving any money on the table). Remember, the more funds you have, the better your chances of meeting all your philanthropic goals.
But your goals shouldn’t just come out of the blue. Make it a point to benchmark them on what you know to be possible. You can use data from previous fundraising efforts or other nonprofits operating in the same space and with the same capabilities as your nonprofit.
You should begin with one big goal, and then break it down. For example, if the goal is to raise $100,000, you may break it like this:
- $60,000 from individual donors
- $20,000 from corporate donors
- $20,000 from major donors
Now remember that goals go hand in hand with strategies. So, as you break down your goals, also think of the strategies you will use to achieve those goals. These are your sub-goals. For example, if you plan on raising $60,000 from individual donors, your sub-goals may be:
- $20,000 from online raffles
- $20,000 from in-person events
- $10,000 from website donations
Involve as many people as you can, especially those who have experience with the relative activities you have listed in the plan.
Keep in mind that your plans may not go as smoothly as you have imagined. List out the challenges that may keep you from achieving the goals to be well prepared for any unforeseen events. These could be budget-related, not having enough people to run the campaigns, or not having enough time.
The more problems you can anticipate, the less likely you will be caught off-guard, as you will have measures in place to deal with all manner of challenges.
Also, make sure that you are striving for growth. If your goal was to raise $100,000 last year and you did. This year, you may want to bump it up to $150,000.
2. Set a reasonable budget
Most nonprofits are caught in a dilemma—they are well aware that their donors can’t stomach the idea of overhead costs (marketing, salaries, etc). If they donate $50 to feed a child, they will prefer the entire $50 to feed a child, not to be used in future fundraising campaigns.
So, you need to be strategic about how you approach this. Because the truth is if you want to keep on making an impact in your sector, you need a budget for fundraising. It takes money to make money.
This is where the issue of ROI comes into play. You need to choose activities that, for lack of a better word, are profitable. This will make it easy to justify the activities (and their associated costs) to your donors.
Once you have a list of ideal activities, you can then list the expenses associated with each one of them. Historical data from previous campaigns should give you an idea of how much to expect in expenses.
However, budgeting shouldn’t just be about money. Another resource you should consider is time—do you have enough time to dedicate to the activity? And do you have enough staff to conduct the activity?
Also, this is a great time to think of where you can save money. Using volunteers is a great idea. And you may get nonprofit discounts for some of the services to use during the fundraising event. For example, Google Ad Grants offers nonprofits access of up to $10,000 per month of search ads shown on Google.
3. Create your calendar
If you don’t specify days when activities will begin and end, you will likely have chaos in your fundraising activities. You may have events bumping into each other.
Also, making a calendar will allow you to plan fundraising activities for important days in the calendar—like Giving Tuesday, World Wildlife Day, or any other dates that are important to your cause.
4. Figure out your message
Another important thing as you are making your fundraising plan is to think of your message. Every donor will only donate if they connect with your cause. Otherwise, there are hundreds of other nonprofits in need of funding. Find a compelling reason why they should give to your nonprofit.
The first tip to remember is “hearts over heads.” This means you should focus on getting people emotionally involved in your cause. So, instead of a bunch of statistics and numbers, share the actual outcomes on how people will benefit from the donation. As an example, instead of “80% of the female population in Sierra Leone is illiterate,” say “$55 will provide two meals each day for one child for one year in Sierra Leone, a child who might otherwise not eat.”
The second tip is that instead of asking people to give to a group of people, you might ask them to give to a single person. Studies prove that asking for support for an identifiable victim attracts more donations than if you ask for a group.
And lastly, make sure you prove to donors that you can be trusted. A study by BBB’s Give.org found that 73% of respondents say it’s important to trust a nonprofit before donating to it.
5. Put it all together
Now that we have worked out everything that needs to be considered, let’s finalize the plan.
This is where it all comes together into a document that your entire organization will follow while executing the fundraiser.
Consider all the little details, like when to start preparing for specific events, the location of meetings, etc. Also, delegate tasks to your team. This will ensure everyone knows their responsibility. Don’t forget to share the plan with the entire organization. Knowing what’s coming up will keep your team in the loop and ready.
Every successful fundraising campaign begins with a solid fundraising plan. It’s easy and less costly to iron out mistakes on paper (during the planning phase) than in real life. This is why before you launch another fundraising campaign, you should first make a plan. It only takes a few hours, but it will save you a lot of stress down the road.
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