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4 questions to answer in a comprehensive fundraising plan

December 03, 2021
This image shows a diverse group of nonprofit professionals gathered in a circle discussing questions their fundraising plan must answer.

Every new year presents an exciting opportunity for your nonprofit organization to set its aim even higher than the previous year. However, before you launch into preparing for your next fundraising campaign, investing in new technology, cultivating your board, or stewarding donors, you need to make a plan.

Creating an annual fundraising plan for your development department is an excellent way to look ahead and determine your upcoming needs and goals. What’s next for your organization in terms of donation goals and sources? What expenses or gaps should you anticipate addressing? How will your nonprofit increase its growth and impact this year?

Your organization’s success relies on the effectiveness of its many moving cogs. An effective fundraising plan considers all the contributions of those involved in promoting your purpose and works out how best to maximize your combined results.

Answer these four questions to kick off your nonprofit’s annual development plan:

1. How much do we need to raise this year?

In order to get moving forward, your nonprofit must first understand where it stands in terms of revenue, resources, and priorities. Determining these numbers upfront will be immensely valuable for crafting the rest of your annual plan:

  • Funds raised from the previous year
  • Marketing budget
  • Additional revenue streams
  • Past average donation amounts

For reference, take a look at your organization’s performance in the past few years. By evaluating your previous successes and areas for improvement, you’ll be able to decide on fundraising goals and strategies that are both ambitious and achievable.

At the same time, don’t limit yourself to revenue goals. Take this opportunity to set goals for your organization’s impact and existing donor relationships as well.

2. How can we inspire and connect with donors?

Many fundraising plans end up featuring various schedules for appeals, in-person solicitations, events, and other tactics for increasing revenue. However, building strong and productive nonprofit-donor relationships is just as important. As your organization prepares for the coming year, don’t forget to devote some thought into communicating and fostering trust with your supporters and prospects.

Stewarding donors requires detailed planning and reporting to be effective. To set your nonprofit up for success, here are a few tips for improving relationships with your donors:

  • Collect detailed donor profiles. Make sure you have a donor management system that equips you with the ability to store and organize your supporters’ information, such as their communication preferences and giving history. Having this data available will better inform your continued interactions with them.
  • Send personalized communications. Use the details in your donor profiles to segment donors based on meaningful characteristics such as their interests, connection to your organization’s purpose, and history of involvement. This way, you’ll be able to send more relevant and personalized messages to the various groups within your donor base.
  • Encourage feedback. Directly asking for your donors’ thoughts and opinions regarding your nonprofit, your impact, and your programs is essential to drive future improvement. After a fundraising event or campaign, send out surveys to get a better sense of what donors connected with most.
  • Appreciate your supporters. The key to cultivating long-term donor relationships is to regularly show appreciation and communicate the impact of their contributions. This reassures them that their support is making a real difference and encourages them to stay involved.

Establishing good relations with your supporters will boost donor retention and open the door for new donors down the line, so take some time to think about what motivates donors.

3. How can our constituents and supporters contribute to fundraising success?

Behind every successful organization lies the combined efforts and dedication of its staff, board, and contributors. Understanding the roles that each individual or team plays in your nonprofit’s growth is crucial to planning out a productive year for everyone to maximize contributions in their own way.

As you refer back to your predetermined goals, turn your fundraising plan into a playbook for achieving success in all aspects of your nonprofit. For instance, to encourage donor gifts, consider incorporating a monthly giving option or suggested giving amounts into your donation page.

Additionally, you could prioritize board member engagement by maintaining effective communication and involving them in your fundraising or volunteer efforts.

4. How will we measure success?

Finally, it’s important to establish ways to measure the effectiveness of your annual fundraising plan from the get-go. Based on your goals, define relevant metrics that will help your organization determine whether it should stay its course or make any adjustments for improved results.

Some popular metrics to consider include:

  • Cost per dollar raised
  • Fundraising return on investment
  • Average gift size
  • Donor retention rate

By implementing ways to measure your fundraising progress as you go, your nonprofit will have the ability to gain insights to regularly refine your strategy and efforts throughout the year.

Laying the groundwork for successful fundraising

Set your organization up for success with a thoughtful and detailed fundraising plan. By investing some time and discussion in advance, you’ll be able to hit the ground running for an effective year of fundraising, donor engagement, and event planning.

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