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A Fundraising Plan That Gets Results

In case you're wondering if you really need a fundraising plan - or at least need to take the time to actually write on - let's share some recent research from Dr. Adrian Sargent:

The odds of increased fundraising revenue are 148% higher

when there is a written (fundraising) plan in place.

Need any more motivation?

A written plan also provides accountability and a strategic focus so that everyone in the organization knows what the fundraising focus, and it sets the steps needed to raise the budgeted dollars. It provides guidance for the team of fundraisers and reassures leadership that the goals can be reached, and what you're doing to reach them.

So, how do you create the ultimate fundraising plan? One that's sure to get results?

FIRST - Review your data and your history

In order to plan for the future, we need to know what's happened before. Is your data of good quality and can you actually contact your donors? How much money has been raised in years past? From how many donors?

How much revenue can you realistically expect to renew, and, therefore, how many new donors do you need?

It's true in any business, both for-profit and nonprofit, that we often make decisions based on assumed realities, or what we think is true. By look at giving history and data quality, we can make informed, realistic decisions about what is possible and what we need to do.

SECOND - Evaluate your resources

There's a very big difference between what you should do, what you want to do, and what can actually do.

As part of your planning, then, take stock of all the resources you have at your disposal - people, time, volunteers, technology, equipment.

Let's say, for example, your organization wants to move more into digital fundraising. Do you have donor's email addresses? Do you have a good email platform that can handle sending out multiple emails? Who is going to do it, or is this going to be something added to already over-full plates?

And don't forget that there is a lot of new technology, so factor in knowledge in experience as part of your resources. Sure, for example, there is a lot of talk about accepting crypto donations lately, but does your finance department know what to do with a gift of cryptocurrency? Will your CRM and systems handle it? These are all critical questions to evaluate before embarking with a new resource or tool.

THIRD - Know Where You're Going

Yes, that budget goal really defines our marching orders, but what are the other measures of success? A $2 million fundraising program that is predominately major gift and foundation gifts focused looks very different than a $2 million that is more dependent upon direct mail, digital, and the low and mid-range of the giving pyramid.

Because fundraising is such an integral part of the entire organizational structure and identity, what are the other results, beyond total dollars raised, that your fundraising plan is going to guide you to? Looking at the level of giving, donor retention rates, upgrading of donors, converting to recurring giving, etc., all have an impact on the plan you set forward - and the tactics you take to reach those goals.


Once you've reviewed the history, data and resources, and established goals, the plan itself then is the process of defining the tactics you will take - what you will actually do - to reach those goals.

The key elements to include in your written plan are:

  • Focus Area - these should line up with your budget line items, e.g. Foundations, Grants, Individuals, etc.

  • Goal or Objective for that Particular Area - e.g. raise $500,000 from new and renewed Individual donors

  • Tactics for Each Area - the daily/weekly/monthly steps you will take to reach the goal

  • Dates and Timelines - when specific projects, campaigns, or actions are due

  • Responsibility - who is doing them

  • Status - what's happening, right now, with this particular project

The fundraising plan is a living, breathing document. One that everyone in the organization uses to track status, update results, measure where you are towards your goals, and understand what's happening to reach those goals.

There are multiple formats of plans - some in a spreadsheet, others written more as a narrative form. What matters most is that the format work for you and your organization, and that it can be updated regularly - because the best plans are part of the daily operation of your fundraising shop.

There's really no right or wrong way to create the actual format of plan. Remember that "done is better than perfect," so focus on the quality of the content and usability of your document, rather than on having the "perfect" format.

FINAL WORDS on Fundraising Planning

Creating a fundraising plan sounds like a daunting task - and if you're starting from scratch, it can certainly be a great deal of work. But, the dividends it will yield in creating efficiency in your work, keeping you focused on goals, and providing accountability to the organization, to your leadership - and most importantly to your beneficiaries and your community - will have a huge impact.

And, P.S., if you invest in creating a really strong plan, the next time you do it, it'll be a LOT easier. Promise!

For more details on Fundraising Planning, check out our webinar "Uncharted Waters: A Fundraising Plan That Gets Results."

And if you'd like a free copy of the plan template referenced in the webinar, just click this link below to download the Excel file.

The Fundraisers Planner - Development Plan Worksheet With Budget 2023
Download XLSX • 111KB

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