How to Develop a Strategic Fundraising Plan

Nonprofit Management

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Your nonprofit needs a strategic fundraising plan to approach fundraising intentionally. Each step in your fundraising plan has a purpose and that purpose is to help your nonprofit raise crucial funds you need to achieve your mission. Without a strategic fundraising plan, your organization is going to be fundraising in the dark, jumping at ideas and hoping that they work out. There’s a better way and that way is to approach fundraising with a strategy. Read on to learn more about what a strategic fundraising plan is and why it matters. 

What is a strategic fundraising plan, and why does it matter? 

A strategic fundraising plan is, a planning document that lays out your fundraising goals and the strategies you’ll use to reach those goals.

It’s important because it keeps nonprofits from floundering around in the dark. Instead, it spells out what you’re supposed to do and when you’re supposed to do it in order to stay on track and reach your fundraising goals. 

Need a plan that goes beyond the one-year mark? You’re looking for a nonprofit development plan!

Developing your strategic fundraising plan 

  1. Incorporate your mission
  2. Develop your team
  3. Create objectives
  4. Determine how you’ll fundraise over the course of the year
  5. Conduct your research
  6. Put your plan into action

Incorporate your mission

Your mission is what makes your nonprofit unique and that’s why it should be at the heart of everything that you do. When you’re developing your strategic fundraising plan, remember your mission and incorporate it into everything that you do. Are you sending out fundraising appeals? Then include your mission statement in the appeal. Whether you send an email appeal or a fundraising letter, you want people to know what you’re trying to accomplish with the funds that you’re raising.  

The same applies to your fundraising events. When you host a fundraising event, share your mission with the people in attendance. You can display your mission, incorporate it into event speeches, and you can even include your mission statement in your event invitations and communications. The key here is to make it clear why you’re raising funds and communicate why your solution to the problem you’re attempting to solve is the best course of action. Your mission should be clear to your supporters or you may find yourself at risk of losing support for nonprofit organizations that have a clearer purpose. 

Develop your team

The next step in developing your strategic fundraising plan is to develop your team. Who is going to be assisting you in executing your fundraising plan? What are their roles? Who is responsible for what task? Laying out the responsibilities of each member of your team makes it clear who is in charge of what aspects of the strategic fundraising plan. This makes it possible to take the guesswork out of your strategic fundraising plan. Instead, everyone should be clear on their roles and responsibilities so that your organization can divide and conquer the various tasks that are part of implementing the strategic fundraising plan. 

Your team consists of more than your staff. If you rely on volunteers for significant help, be sure to outline volunteer responsibilities in your strategic fundraising plan. This helps those who direct your volunteers to know what their role is in the grand scheme of the fundraising plan. 

Create objectives

People reviewing data while creating their strategic fundraising plan.

A fundraising plan without clear objectives isn’t strategic. What makes your fundraising plan strategic is laying out the objectives that you have for your fundraising and then planning how to achieve those objectives when you put your plan into action. But how do you decide on your objectives? Well, this goes back to your mission. If your mission is to provide homes for every adoptable pet in your service area, your objectives should relate to that mission. What steps can you take to ensure your mission is successful? Regarding the animal shelter example, a reasonable objective could be to raise enough funds to offset every animal’s adoption fee to reduce the financial barriers to pet ownership for people in your service area.  

Determine how you’ll fundraise over the course of the year 

The next step in developing your strategic fundraising plan is to determine how you’ll raise the funds to meet your objectives throughout the course of the year. While some objectives may require multiple years to achieve, it is important to set benchmarks and plan to achieve as many of your objectives as possible. How you achieve those objectives is through effective fundraising. What does effective fundraising look like? That will vary depending on your organization, but it should look like achieving objectives by fully funding them. You can fundraise in a variety of ways from sending email and direct mail appeals, to hosting fundraising events to raise funds from a captive audience. The key is to know your audience and what inspires them to give then acting on it. 

 
In the case of your strategic fundraising plan, you’ll need to plan out for the year what your fundraising is going to entail. When are you planning to send your appeals? What does the event season look like for your nonprofit organization? Take some time to answer these questions and get your fundraising initiatives on your organization’s calendar so that you can put them into action when the time comes. 

Want more tips for developing a strategic fundraising plan? Check out this blog post for additional information.

Conduct your research

If you have past data, put it to use when developing your strategic fundraising plan. It’s important to gauge how your nonprofit performed in previous years to help inform your plans for the future. If there are fundraising events that do exceptionally well, you’ll obviously want to continue hosting them in the new year. For underperforming campaigns, it helps to look at what your organization did well so that you can make changes to the areas that need improvement. If a specific appeal surpassed your goals, write more appeals like the one that was successful. 

It’s also important to evaluate your past missteps to see what you can do to improve your fundraising. In the example of low-performing fundraising events, it’s important to take time to evaluate these events and determine whether they’re salvageable or should be replaced with more successful event formats. If certain fundraising events are costing your organization money without a healthy return on the investment, it’s time for them to go by the wayside in favor of events that do well. In other cases, you may just need to make tweaks to your existing events to attempt to make them more profitable.  

When it comes to analyzing your past performance, it helps to have a document that captures all of your thoughts and answers important questions. That’s why we put together the Year-End Review Workbook. Take some time to answer the workbook questions and analyze your past fundraising performance so that you can improve your future fundraising.

Put your plan into action

Once you’ve got your strategic fundraising plan in place, it’s important to actually utilize your plan to stay on top of your fundraising. Too many nonprofits develop a strategic fundraising plan but abandon it part way through the year. Avoid this pitfall by adhering to your strategic fundraising plan. Remember that your plan is a solid framework for your fundraising success. That doesn’t mean that you can’t add or make modifications to the plan. If you need to make changes, at least you’re adhering to a fundraising plan and approaching it with intentionality. This helps you stay strategic in your fundraising efforts. This is more effective than the spaghetti method of throwing noodles at the wall to see what sticks.  

Conclusion

By taking time to develop a strategic fundraising plan, you’re making a conscious effort to achieve your mission by tackling the objectives you set.  

By keeping your mission at the core of everything that you do, you make it clear why you’re raising funds, why supporters should continue to support you, and why your approach to solving the problem is the best one donors can give to.  

When you outline your team members’ roles and responsibilities you make it clear to them what they’re responsible for when it comes to executing your strategic fundraising plan.  

As you determine how you’re going to fundraise for the year, it’s important to have clear objectives outlined in your strategic fundraising plan. These objectives should help inform your fundraising initiatives. They also make it easier to determine what the year of fundraising should look like for your nonprofit organization. It also pays to conduct research into your past fundraising to know what you’ve done well and what can be improved in your future fundraising efforts. 

Lastly, be sure to stick with and execute your strategic fundraising plan. This way you can make the most of your efforts. A directionless approach raises fewer funds because your objectives and mission aren’t clear to your supporters. Instead, avoid abandoning your strategic fundraising plan. Try to stick with it so that you can fundraise with intention and achieve your objectives more readily.

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