fundraising plan

How to Write a Fundraising Plan in 4 Steps

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For today’s post, we are featuring a guest article from our friend Sandy Rees at Get Fully Funded.

Anytime is a great time to work on a fundraising plan.You don’t have to wait until the first of January or the beginning of your fiscal year.If you don’t have a plan, NOW is a good time to put one together.If you do have a plan, NOW is a good time to review and update it.Without a fundraising plan that’s based on sound strategy, you may be going in circles wasting time and resources, and never really moving toward your goals. The problem is that planning seems overwhelming. Sometimes big tasks like “Create a fundraising plan” are just too daunting. You know it needs to be done, but you have no idea where to start, and the thought of figuring it out makes you want to give up before you even get started. Or your need to get it just right and done in the perfect format throws you into procrastination mode.Many times people just want the ideal template to use. Unfortunately, there’s no perfect format. Plans can take many shapes. The most important thing is to get it done and on paper. As long as it’s in your head, it isn’t real. Use Excel or Word or crayons and paper if that appeals to you. The format isn’t what’s important – what’s important is setting a direction and some goals, and getting it in writing.Follow these four steps to make pulling your plan together without procrastination or overwhelm.

1. Start by setting a dollar goal.

How much do you need to raise? “As much as we can” or “A lot” are not good goals. Look at the programs you’re running or want to run. What do they cost? Include all direct and indirect expenses, and add it all up. THAT’S the amount you need to raise.

I suggest you think big on this one. Include the little extras you really want for your programs. It’s better to shoot high and not quite make it than to shoot low and come in under goal. Besides, a goal that’s a bit of a stretch will cause you to think outside the box a little bit, which is a good thing.

2. Evaluate the past.

Take a look at hard numbers from the past two years. What worked? What didn’t? Which fundraising activities gave you the best ROI? Based on the answers to these questions, decide which activities you want to do again. Hint: you don’t have to keep doing something just because you always have. You also don’t have to do something just because everyone else does.

You may need to do a little digging here. Take a little time to gather the actual numbers so you can confidently make decisions about what fundraising activities to include in your plan based on data, not how you feel about them.

The only reason you should skip this step is if your nonprofit is so new you haven’t done anything yet.

3. Choose the best strategies.

Pick activities that give you a good return on your investment of time, money, and energy. Be sure to include a good variety of activities so you’ll have diversified revenue. Not sure what to pick? Use my 1-10-1000 Rule.

Do 1 special event and do it really well.

Make it a Signature Event that everyone in town associates with your organization. Make it a FUN event that people talk about for days or weeks afterward. And make sure it makes you plenty of money so it’s worth the effort (at least 4-to-1 return on what you spend).

Get 10 grants.

Actually, get all the grant money you can. Most nonprofits can find at least 10 good, strong grant prospects. Chances are good that with 10 solid opportunities, you’ll have deadlines scattered throughout the year, with a few of them having no deadlines and you can work them in when you have time. The bottom line here is don’t leave grant money on the table. Go after those that are a good fit for your organization and programs, and keep the pipeline full.

Get 1,000 individual donors.

Yes, that’s one thousand donors. Don’t freak – you can do this. That many donors will give you a SOLID base of support. Start by figuring out the number of active donors you have right now. Then work on adding 100. When you get those, go find another hundred, and repeat the process until you reach 1,000. By taking it in smaller bites, it seems more doable and you’ll be more likely to be successful.

And where exactly do you find new donors? Start with those already invested in your organization. Ask your volunteers to give. Ask you those giving in-kind to you to make a financial gift. Ask people who benefit from your programs to give. Then ask them to ask their friends to give. Work your way out to others who are likely to care. Create an Ideal Donor Profile of the person who is MOST likely to give, then brainstorm ways that you can find them easily and in large numbers. This exercise is extremely valuable and will help you focus your donor acquisition efforts in the right place.

4. Put the plan in writing.

As you answer these questions, write down your answers. It doesn’t matter what format you use, it just matters that you write it down. Because, if it’s not in writing, it isn’t real.Mark, your calendar to revisit this plan monthly to see how you’re doing. This will keep you on track to reaching your goals for the year, and maybe even do it early.

If you’d like a simple fundraising calendar to get you started, download my “1Page Quick-and-Simple Fundraising Plan” at

Sandy Rees

Author bio: Sandy Rees is the Founder and Chief Encouragement Officers at Get Fully Funded. Sandy focuses on consulting and teaching her clients how to create robust fundraising plans in order to reach their desired level on funding! Keep an eye out for Sandy's great blog content, guest posts, and the workshops that she hosts throughout the year!

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