You might remember a groundbreaking report that came out earlier this year. Under Developed is a national study highlighting the challenges that are facing fundraisers and fundraising efforts. The report concluded that nonprofits are stuck in an unhealthy cycle when it comes to revenue generation and staff retention. I read it when it was published and recently ran across it again. The second read reminded me of some of the cringe-worthy statistics about the state of our fundraising efforts. One in particular stands out: More than one in five nonprofits do not have a fundraising plan.
That stat was hard to type, let alone read and think about. If you don’t have a fundraising plan, the following sentence should haunt you. The organization with a plan wins. I understand that nonprofits are lean in staffing and resources—you walk in everyday and feel more like a fire fighter putting out fires than a professional fundraiser. But there is no excuse not to take time to sit down and build a plan for the year.
3 Simple reasons why you need a fundraising plan:
- Your colleagues who are planning and implementing programming probably have a plan and need financial resources to fulfill and advance your mission.
- Your development staff will work in concert toward one goal.
- The methods that you’ve relied on for years will eventually become stale. A thought-out plan will enhance your efforts and donors will take notice.
5 Steps to kick start your fundraising plan today
Okay, I’m going to trust that you’re convinced and ready to start building your fundraising plan. Once you have your monetary goal for the year, it’s time to begin evaluating and planning.
Step 1: Look at your current landscape
To figure out where you want to go, you have to look at where you are. You can analyze your fundraising efforts for the past few years to see what’s working and what’s not. Conducting analytics on your donor database will provide the landscape of all things giving – special events, annual giving, major giving, grants, upgrades, downgrades, retention rates, acquisition, etc. This video blog will teach you how to uncover gaps in giving.
Step 2: Review your tactics and draft a plan
Once your analytics are complete, review every potential revenue stream (annual giving, major giving, events, etc.) and assign a monetary target. For each category, think strategically and make note of exactly how you’ll get there. For example, if your Autumn Gala goal is to net $175,000, you might need to accomplish the following tactics:
- Pre-solicit your largest raise-the-paddle level so that donor is poised to give and create a culture of philanthropy in the room.
- Pre-solicit a donor who will put up a match for every raise-the-paddle at $250.
- Solicit $45,000 in corporate and foundation sponsorship to cover 100% of the event costs.
- Only focus on the most fruitful silent and live auction items (your analytics will tell you what performs best: i.e. wine, travel, dining, and experiences).
Step 3: Engage your stakeholders
Once you have your goal, strategies and tactics, it’s time to engage your volunteers. Board members and high-level volunteers who are brought in early will help you see the plan through. They have skin in the game. Schedule a series of meetings to go over your draft and implement their additions.
Step 4: Confirm your strategy with all staff
In partnership with your development committee, present your plan to the board and your Executive Director. This is an important step because once the plan has been established and presented, it will keep your efforts on track. Down the road, when board members or your ED suggest that fundraising efforts be directed in a certain way, you will have a choice. If the opportunity is great, you can seize it. If you think the opportunity will not be monetarily fruitful or take staff off point, you can simply state that it is not in the plan.
Step 5: Review and evaluate
Lastly, review your plan quarterly to make sure you’re still on track. Remember that the plan is not laid in cement. If you need to make tweaks along the way, feel free to do that. This should be a living, breathing document – not shoved into a drawer to die.