Every non-profit organization needs a written fundraising plan in order to be successful.
Whether you are launching a new organization and have yet to raise a dollar, or are a multibillion-dollar international charity, you need a fundraising plan to guide your efforts.
Why Fundraising Plans are Important
Fundraising plans are important because they bring order to the hectic world of non-profit development. In the midst of holding events, writing appeal letters, and meeting with donors, it can be difficult to figure out what’s next. Your fundraising plan guides your yearly fundraising efforts and ensures that your organization isn’t just throwing everything against the wall to see what sticks.
Your written fundraising plan gives you a foundation for all of your development activities… and gets everyone on to the same team when it comes to development priorities. When board members, program staff, or administrators come to you with fundraising ideas, you can see how and if they fit into your plan. If they don’t fit, then they are easier to turn away. Likewise, your plan gives you a clear calendar for all of your fundraising activities so you can make sure that donors and prospects are receiving communications and asks in the correct cadence.
The Three Most Important Parts of Any Fundraising Plan
In my experience, the three most important components of any fundraising plan are:
In order to be successful in the long run, your fundraising plan must be built around scalable fundraising systems. These systems make decisions easier and conserve resources for your non-profit. You can learn more about building strong fundraising systems read What Does a Good Fundraising System Look Like?
Good fundraising plans include action steps for your development strategies along with deadlines for each. Deadlines keep everyone working at the correct pace and ensure that everyone knows when projects will be completed.
Similarly, good fundraising plans include clear responsibilities… this means that they detail who on your team is responsible for each action step.
Including fundraising systems, deadlines, and responsibilities in your fundraising plan will give you the greatest possible chance at success with meeting your fundraising goals and objectives.
Which Comes First: The Fundraising Plan or the Program Budget?
One question I often get asked by non-profit fundraisers who are writing plans is which comes first… the organization’s yearly budget, or the fundraising plan? Should the non-profit write its fundraising plan first, with a goal of raising as much money as possible, and then develop its budget based on that plan? Or should the organization write out its budget for programs and overhead first, and then write a fundraising plan to meet the goals laid out in the budget?
From my perspective, the best way is to develop your program budget first, and then write a fundraising plan to meet your budgetary goals. I have found that when organizations write their fundraising plans first, they end up with lots unrealistic “sky’s the limit” revenue goals. The non-profits then write their budgets based on those unrealistic goals, and everyone ends up disappointed.
Instead, develop your budget, then write a fundraising plan to meet your budget needs. As you write your fundraising plan, be honest about your organization’s development capacity. If you simply cannot develop a fundraising strategy to realistically meet your program budget needs, then your team will need to sit down to reduce or rethink your budgetary requirements.
How to Write Your Plan
The best way to write your fundraising plan is to have one person on your team take ownership. I have found that writing by committee, where different people write different parts of the plan, produces a disjointed plan where the different strategies don’t work well together.
The person writing your plan can be a staff member or consultant. Either way, that person should talk to all of the relevant stakeholders to make sure they have all of the information they need to write the plan. The plan writer should be prepared to make a number of revisions to the plan after the first draft is presented to the development lead and the organization’s management and board.
Finally, my strong suggestion is that your non-profit gets the board to vote to approve the written fundraising plan. Doing so will ensure that the board is fully aware of your fundraising strategy for the coming year and supports that strategy. Board approval will also make it easier to get your board to help with your fundraising when necessary.
Every non-profit needs a written fundraising plan that lays out clear goals, deadlines, and responsibilities, and which builds scalable fundraising systems for your organization. How strong is your fundraising plan? If you need help writing a successful fundraising plan, click here to let us know!
Photo Credit: Angie Garrett