The fundraising landscape has always been rugged terrain: Your team may feel stretched to its limits. Board members have a tough time viewing themselves as fundraisers. And despite continued growth in giving, especially in digital fundraising, most nonprofits lose more than 60% of their hard-won donors every year. Scaling that mountain is about to get even tougher with new tax laws around charitable donations about to take effect.
Just like you wouldn’t make a summit attempt without planning for it, your success as a fundraiser hinges on being prepared, and good prep work begins with a development plan. And here’s the key takeaway: It’s the planning more than the plan itself that elevates your game, opens your eyes to new strategies, and helps you avoid past mistakes while discovering what works.
Network for Good partnered with nonprofit guru Barbara O’Reilly on the eGuide Create a Fundraising Plan That Will Propel Your Nonprofit Forward. It walks you through four key questions to help your organization set achievable goals beyond just dollars raised, as well as identify resources to engage and retain a variety of donors. The guide packs in a ton of detailed, insightful guidance for pros who’ve been there, done that, and want a fresh take on how to get the job done. Here’s a quick take:
How much does your organization need to raise this year?Begin this conversation with senior staff so you can get a full perspective of organizational needs and fundraising trends. Once you have that big goal, look at all the ways you can reach it, particularly those areas of untapped potential: major gifts program, corporate gifts, events. A diverse fundraising portfolio won’t leave you hanging if one method falls flat. How can you connect with donors to steward and inspire them?Growth is important—and retention is huge! As you know, it costs a lot less to keep a donor than replace one. Dig into your donor management system to learn about your donors. Consider surveying current and lapsed donors once a year to find out why they support your cause—or why they drifted away. Build those relationships on a foundation of communication and understanding. Who can you enlist to contribute to a successful fundraising year?Here’s where you put all that planning for retention and growth into action. Outline the “who, how, and when” for your fundraising activities. Begin with measurable objectives, then list the strategies that’ll help you meet them, and finally, drill it all down into an action plan that assigns people to roles and schedules. How will you measure progress so you can change course if necessary?The smart fundraiser knows that every Plan A needs a just-in-case Plan B, but you also need to know when it’s time to shift gears. Tracking a few key metrics—retention rate, average gift, cost to raise a dollar—helps you make informed decisions based on your organization’s progress throughout the year.
A fully realized development plan is more than a straight-up tick-the-box fundraising schedule or to-do list. In effect, it’s a holistic view of everything you do as a fundraising professional. Having that plan—and giving yourself the time to put it together—means having a touchstone when the days get hectic and you risk losing sight of the big picture.