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How to create a fundraising plan that boosts your nonprofit

July 09, 2021
Five nonprofit professionals sit in a circle and discuss how to build a fundraising plan to boost their results.

Your success as a fundraising professional for a nonprofit organization hinges on being prepared, beginning with a development plan. It’s the planning process more than the end result that opens your eyes to new strategies and helps you avoid past mistakes while discovering what works.

Let’s walk through four key questions to help your organization set achievable goals and identify resources to engage and retain a variety of donors.

1. How much does your organization need to raise this year?

Begin this conversation with senior staff so you can get a full perspective of your nonprofit’s needs and current fundraising trends. Once you have that overarching goal, look at all the ways you can reach it, particularly in areas of untapped potential. For instance, consider implementing the following programs if you haven’t already:

  • Major gifts programs
  • Planned giving programs
  • Corporate gift programs

You can also look into hybrid or remote fundraising events and accept cryptocurrency or in-kind materials as gifts. This results in a diverse fundraising portfolio with many fundraising avenues, allowing you to discover ones that are more successful than others.

2. How can you connect with donors to steward and inspire them?

Maintaining a healthy number of donors is important—especially via retention. After all, it costs a lot less to keep a donor than to replace one. To hone your engagement strategy, it helps to think like your donors, and there’s no better way to step into their shoes than to examine your existing community.

Start by digging into your fundraising software to learn about your donor community’s demographics. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What are their preferred modes of communication?
  • What’s their average donation amount?
  • Which types of fundraising appeals do they respond best to?

Answering these questions with reports pulled from your database helps you develop a data-driven donor engagement strategy. However, you can also look for answers to these questions externally. Consider surveying current volunteers and donors once a year to find out why they support your cause. Remember to focus on lapsed donors that you’ve re-engaged, as their motivations can tell you more about your outreach campaign’s strengths and weaknesses.

3. What are your fundraising program’s logistics?

Once you’ve collected important baseline information and your nonprofit’s next steps forward, it’s time to put that data into action by organizing the logistics of your fundraising campaign. 

First, outline the “who, how, and when” for each of your fundraising activities. Even if you don’t have confirmed fundraising participants yet, establish how many people you’ll need to deliver your appeals to in a timely manner. Then, determine which communication channels you’ll use to deliver the information, and segment your audience accordingly. Finally, cement your timeframe for your outreach campaign so that you can properly measure your success.

4. How will you measure progress so you can change course if necessary?

A prepared fundraiser knows that every plan A needs a plan B, and you need to know when it’s time to shift gears. Having several avenues to reach your goals ensures the highest probability that you’ll cover all of your bases and find success. 

But how should you measure progress and determine when it’s time to try something new? Basing your goals on key performance indicators (KPIs)—like your retention rate, average gift amount, and cost to raise a dollar—helps you make informed decisions based on your organization’s progress.

Keep track of this information in your fundraising software and CRM so that you can pull reports at certain intervals during your given timeframe. Remember to practice data hygiene by deleting duplicate records and tracking information quickly so that your reports are as accurate as possible and you only shift course when it’s truly necessary.

The impact of a great fundraising plan

A fully cultivated development plan is more than a to-do list. It’s a holistic view of everything you do as a fundraising professional. Having that plan—and giving yourself the time to put it together—means having a touchstone that helps you keep sight of the big picture. So make sure that you have a great fundraising plan that makes it clear what your goals are and what you need to do to achieve them.

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