How to develop a fundraising plan and strategy that provides a sustainable future

As a nonprofit leader, you may often find your fundraising efforts to be chaotic and unsystematic. You might be getting good results in the short term – but you will likely burn yourself, and your donors out, over the long-term.

You need to build a systematic fundraising strategy that will provide a sustainable future. Building a sustainable future requires a realistic and executable fundraising plan. This post will outline ten steps to build your fundraising plan and strategy.

Structuring a fundraising plan isn’t a complex process but it does require focus and input from yourself and others within your charity.

Ten steps to build your fundraising plan and strategy:

#1 – Name the individual who will be in charge of fundraising

This sounds easy. But if you are a small organization you likely wear many hats, and so do your colleagues. The fact remains, someone within your organization needs to “own” fundraising and be responsible for coordinating the fundraising efforts. Having clarity in this role will provide structure to the process and offer reassurance to leadership and board members. Fundraising “by committee” never works – but having one person herd the cats will be helpful in the long-run.

#2 – Outline your goals and objectives

You must develop clear and specific goals to achieve. Most importantly, define the budget and how much of it requires fundraising support. It may all, most, or some of it need outside funding support. Regardless, the bottom-line number needs to be identified. This one figure will help determine the methods you should deploy to optimize your fundraising potential. If you have many designated areas of support you will need to identify the figure for each of these. Not only does this bring clarity to the fundraising team but it will be important for framing the fundraising message and call to action.

#3 – Research and study past donor giving history and fundraising activities

There are valuable lessons to learn from past fundraising experiences and donor giving history. Take a deep dive into both these areas, especially donor giving trends at both the micro and macro levels. A word of advice. Avoid giving credence to the, “We’ve done this before and it didn’t work” syndrome. It may well be true, but what were the circumstances? I remember a time someone said the exact same thing and I asked when was this? And his reply was over ten years ago. That’s an eternity in my book and provides little relevance. Learn from the past but don’t be crippled by it either.

#4 – Identify the fundraising channels and methods you can realistically put in place

This is a difficult one for many people. You should identify methods that will raise you the most money with the least amount of effort. That may rub some people the wrong way. But the reality is you need to be good stewards of the charity’s resources. As an example, special events, with exceptions of course, are a significant drain on time and energy. From an ROI perspective, they don’t fare well compared to other methods. On the other hand, major donor fundraising can be challenging, and intimidating, but will certainly provide a big bang for the buck. There are many methods besides these. The bottom-line, you need to choose well and make the best effort to raise as much as possible with the resources you have.

#5 – Develop a case for support that demonstrates the impact your charity makes in the world

Why does your charity exist? What do you do better than any other charity? What are examples of the impact your charity is making in the world? And why should someone give to you now?  Your answers to each of these questions must be clear, specific, concise, and authenticate. In this age of short attention spans and myriads of charities to choose from, you need to build a case for support that does that. Not that easy to do. In fact, down right difficult. There will be entrenched perspectives coming from donors, board members, employees, and volunteers. You need to force your way through the clutter and answer these questions.

#6 – Develop a thematic calendar and message platform that supports the case for support

This step is rather complex. It requires a lot of time and thought to do it properly. I suggest you hire outside support for this task. You can do it internally but you will benefit from third-party insights. Either way, you need to develop a calendar of fundraising activities for the entire year right down to who is doing what and when. Also, the calendar must include themes that are in alignment with the messaging for the entire organization. But the most important task is to develop a message platform. The short description of this: a document that outlines in clear language the key talking points and calls to action for fundraising. This document becomes the roadmap for all efforts regardless of the communication channel.

#7 – Make sure you have the proper systems to deploy and maintain fundraising activities

Ensure that you have the mechanics in place to disseminate your fundraising message, to accept gifts, and to answer questions, and follow up as needed.  You will also need to have the marketing structure in place to support the methods of fundraising you plan to use. Direct mail, email, social media, special events, planned giving, and so forth all require their own unique set of talents and support systems. It’s important to use methods that you can do well and are in alignment with your budget and skill sets.

#8 – Get to work and execute your fundraising plan and strategy

Execution is key! Get to work and make it happen. Planning is important, but execution is far more valuable. Your fundraising plan and strategy will only be successful if it is executed well.

#9 – Stewardship is the glue that binds the donor to the charity and its mission

Thanking donors, volunteers, and supporters is the key to long-term success and sustainability. People like to give. They do. And they often say there is no need to thank them but the reality is everyone appreciates a sense of gratitude. So, thank your constituents often and authentically. But thanking them is not enough. They deserve to hear from you about how their donation made a positive impact. This can be done with email, phone, direct mail, and personal visits. All can and should play a role. You need to establish the best mix for your organization. The most valuable communication makes the donor feel like they are part of something bigger than themselves.

#10 – Regularly monitor and review the execution of the fundraising plan and strategy

At the end of each year, week, month, quarter, and year you need to review the progress of your fundraising plan and strategy. And compare it to the original goals and objectives you set. Measurement against the goals is crucial to determine what is going well, what could go better, and what you should modify. I would do this in the fundraising department first, then provide analytical reports to leadership.

Celebrate what you and your team have achieved and prepare to do it all over again!

I hope the ten steps to build your fundraising plan and strategy was helpful!

Additional reading within this blog can be found HERE and an excellent outside resource HERE and HERE