Your fundraising plan matters for your non-profit. The most successful non-profit development programs – the ones that exceed their fundraising goals year after year – have written fundraising plans in place to guide their efforts.
In this article, I’m going to walk you through the elements of a strong plan, then give you a sample fundraising plan you can use as a template for your non-profit.
Every non-profit, no matter how large or small, needs a written fundraising plan in place in order to succeed. If you’re wondering why fundraising plans are so important for your organization, read our article How to Write an Effective Fundraising Plan for Your Non-Profit, which details why you need a fundraising plan and the process you can use to create one.
In this article, we’re going to be focused on the plan itself: telling you exactly what to include in your fundraising plans, and giving you a sample fundraising plan that you can download and use to guide your efforts.
The 10 Components of a Successful Fundraising Plan
Every organization, consultant, and fundraiser has a different formula and structure for writing fundraising plans. I base my plans around 10 key sections, which are detailed below. You’ll see each of these components in the sample fundraising plan you can download at the end of this article.
The structure of your fundraising plan might differ from the structure I use… and that’s ok. The important thing is that you sit down and write the plan, then continue refining it as you put it into action. Here are the 10 components I use in my plans:
#1: The Cover Page
This may not seem like an incredibly important component to your plan, but there is one important thing to mention about your plan’s cover page: always include both a plan year and a revision date on the front cover. For example, if this is your fundraising plan for 2020, say that. Likewise, if you last revised the plan on May 1, 2019 put that on the cover as well.
This is important because over time, if you are writing and constantly updating your fundraising plan, you are going to end up with several different years’ worth of plans sitting on each of your fundraising staff members’ hard drives, as well as several different versions of each of those plans. You always want to make sure you are editing or reading the most recent plan. You’d be surprised how many times this has tripped up organizations, particularly large ones with large fundraising teams.
#2: Background Information
Next, include a background that briefly explains what is currently going on at your non-profit that will influence the plan. This can be a short (half page or one-page) summary of the past couple of years and the current year that will bring anyone who reads the plan up to speed with everything they need to know to interpret the plan correctly.
Don’t worry about sticking every little thing in here. You don’t need to tell people all of the staffing changes for the past year or how well each event did. Just tell the relevant big picture facts that will impact your fundraising plan for the coming year.
For example, if last you decided to stop holding your big annual event because it was getting too expensive, put that in the background. Likewise, if you recently expanded your board so that it would be more fundraising-focused, put that in there as well.
#3: Goals and Objectives
This is the section where you state what your organization hopes to achieve in fundraising during the time period covered by the plan. Include numbers – lay out your fundraising targets for this year and for the coming couple of years. How much do you need to raise? Are there amounts that need to be raised each month just to keep the doors open? Are there contingency goals where you will be able to do additional work if additional money comes in?
Also include your fundraising related objectives in this section. For example,… do you want to find 3 new members for your development committee? Are you seeking to increase your e-mail fundraising list by 10% this year? Whatever your goals and objectives for the coming year, spell them out in this section with as much specificity as possible. Use the sample fundraising plan at the end of this article to see some examples of the types of goals and objectives that you can include in your own plan.
This section lists the assumptions you are making in formulating the plan. Every non-profit makes assumptions as it plans out its fundraising for the coming year. List them here, so that everyone is on the same page. Some examples of possible assumptions include:
- Assuming that the organization will be able to hire a new major gift officer this year
- Assuming that the local Rotary Club will continue to hold its annual dinner dance for your benefit
- Assuming that you’ll continue to receive a major government grant this year
List all of your assumptions up front, and know that if one of the assumptions doesn’t bear out, you may need to rewrite part of the plan to map out a strategy for dealing with that eventuality.
#5: Fundraising Infrastructure
The second half of the plan is where things really start to get fun. This is where you list out what you are actually going to do this year to meet your goals. This is where you start to build out your fundraising strategy. It all starts with your fundraising infrastructure.
As you prepare this section, you want to ask your team: what infrastructure do we currently have in place for fundraising, and what infrastructure do we anticipate needing over the coming year or years?
Infrastructure includes things like additional staff, your donor database, your marketing materials, your case for support, your website, etc. – everything you use to fundraise. What will need to be upgraded or replaced this year? What do you want to add to make your team more effective fundraisers?
List it all, with deadlines and responsibilities for implementation, as well as the cost for each item. The sample fundraising plan below will give you some ideas on the types of infrastructure items you can include in this section.
#6: Donor Prospect Plan
This section answers the crucial question, “Where will we find new prospects for our non-profit?” The fundraising process starts with the prospect. Prospects are the fundamental starting point for the fundraising funnel. Without prospects, you have no one to cultivate, and without people to cultivate, you have no one to ask for a gift. Simply put, new prospects are the lifeblood of your fundraising effort.
#7: Donor Communications and Cultivation
This section answers the questions, “How are we planning to cultivate our donors?” “What will our cultivation paths look like?” and “What are our donor and prospect communication calendars?”
Cultivation is everything your non-profit does from the time you identify a person, business, or foundation as a good prospect for your organization until the time you make an ask of that person or entity. Cultivation is what happens in between… it is all of the communication and interaction that occurs between your non-profit and your prospect.
This section on cultivation also includes stewardship… answering questions like, “How do we treat our donors once they make a donation?” “How do we thank and recognize our donors?” and “How do we retain our donors, upgrade our donors, and get them to open up their networks to us?”
There are any number of great ways to communicate with and cultivate your donors. Some of the most common strategies used by non-profits for donor cultivation include e-mail and snail mail newsletters, your website, social media, annual reports, non-ask events, volunteer opportunities, donor calls, and in-person donor meetings. Take a look at the sample fundraising plan for more ideas on how to structure this section.
#8: Fundraising Tactics
The fundraising tactics section details the tactics you will use to actually make asks and solicit money. Each tactic should get its own subsection with action steps, deadlines and responsible persons. Common tactics include:
- Individual Donor Fundraising
- Direct Mail
- Fundraising Events
- Online Fundraising
- Grants and Government Support
- Annual Giving Programs
- Planned Giving
- Capital Campaigns
- Affinity Groups and Fundraising Networks
Detail exactly what you are going to do to reach your fundraising goals in this section, including each fundraising tactic you plan to employ.
#9: Fundraising Needs and Goals
At the end of my fundraising plans, I always include two items that summarize the plan and the work we are going to accomplish. The first is the fundraising needs and goals summary. This is a numbers-driven summary of what your organization needs to raise (your program budget) and how you are going to raise it (your overall fundraising goals as well as specific monetary goals for each tactic you are going to use). To see what this looks like in action, take a look at the sample fundraising plan provided below.
#10: Action Step Timeline
I like to include a list of action steps in each of the sections of the plan that lists what needs to be done by which deadline in order for the plan to succeed. Then, as the 10th and final component of the fundraising plan, I include a consolidated with each action step listed chronologically.
This allows anyone who reads the plan to get a good picture of all of the activity that is currently going on, see what the deadlines and goals are, and know who is responsible for each. This action step timeline is hard to explain, so take a look at the final section of the sample fundraising plan below. Many organizations I work with use these timelines to guide their weekly or monthly fundraising staff meetings.
Remember, your fundraising plan will change. It is important to write down your plan, but it is also important to be willing to change course when events dictate. Review your plan often, and make changes as necessary.
The Sample Fundraising Plan
Enter your e-mail address below to receive your sample fundraising plan. It will be sent to you via e-mail immediately after you click the button. This plan is for a fictional non-profit called The Kilkenny Children’s Home. Feel free to use this plan as a template for your non-profit’s own fundraising plan:
When you receive the sample fundraising plan, you'll also be registered for our free weekly e-mail newsletter, The Fundraising Blueprint Newsletter.
Note that while this plan is long (30 pages) your plan can be longer, or significantly shorter, depending on your needs. Just remember that your plan should include firm deadlines for each of your tactics, and should note who is responsible for each action step whenever possible. If you have any questions about this fundraising plan, or would like help with writing a plan for your non-profit, please click here to contact me.
Photo Credit: ReynerMedia