A key element to the success of any business in operation today is its business plan – a road map that outlines the route a business plans to take to increase its revenues and grow financially. A similar road map exists for nonprofits and other organizations that raise monies for their continued growth and success.
Called a fundraising plan, this road map helps you to look ahead, establish fundraising goals and then focus your efforts on how to achieve those goals. A comprehensive, written fundraising plan becomes a document that you and everyone else can refer to for guidance on tactics and strategies while you’re in the middle of mailing letters, making phone calls and composing e-mails.
Under the best scenario, fundraising plans are written by members of your organization’s development committee in consultation with the CEO or executive director and the board. In the absence of a development staff, the executive director or CEO should write it while consulting with the board. Development consultants are another option; they can help your charity write a fundraising plan that suits your needs, but be sure they are qualified to do so.
A common approach to writing a fundraising plan is to start by listing the overall fundraising goal for the coming year. Articulate what the end goal is for your group’s efforts, based on the organization’s actual needs. Be sure to base your figure on a demonstrable need, not just what seems like a good amount. This is the time to think about what activities your organization would like to carry out, and how much money it will take to do so.
The next step is to think about the mission of your organization – why do you need the money? What is your operating budget, and why is it the size that it is? Once you raise the money, what will you do with it?
Now you’re ready to consider exactly how you will reach your fundraising goals. What methods have worked in the past? Or, if your group is entirely new to fundraising, brainstorm ideas and list them one by one.
You may decide that holding events will be the sole means of raising the money needed to reach your goals. Perhaps a mixture of events, asking donors to make individual gifts (called “individual giving”) to your organization, and soliciting giving from major donor groups is best for your group. These are certainly valid options, but you are not limited to them. Some other tactics include direct mail, telemarketing, pursuing corporate giving programs, online and e-giving, and participatory fundraising (walk-a-thons, cook-offs, etc.).
Once you have a list of tactics, establish a timeline that covers the coming year and pinpoint where on the timeline each tactic belongs. Treat each tactic as a smaller goal that leads to your organization’s success: even though they are smaller, they are important pieces of your fundraising puzzle and need just as much care and attention. Look at each tactic and break them down into timelines of their own – when will a decision on venue need to be made? When will sponsors be solicited? When will invitations need to be sent?
The same approach can be taken for a fundraising plan that looks ahead 2 years, 5 years and beyond. A one-year fundraising plan should be seen as a starting point to charting out years of success for your organization. It’s well worth taking the time to do this work at the very beginning to help avoid stress and even financial panic down the road.