7 Steps to a Written Fundraising Plan

Posted By Steph Silva

You’ve heard the old saying, and it’s true.

Fail to plan and plan to fail.

So why do so few people plan?

Planning doesn’t have to be hard or take a lot of time, but it does require some serious thought.

Remember that having a well-thought-out plan will move you from being reactive to being proactive, which will lessen your stress and make you more productive. And don’t we all want that?

If you’re one of the thousands of people who know you need a plan but don’t have one, start by following these 7 steps. They’ll get you on the road to success.

Step 1. Start by setting goals.

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 will that cost? Include all direct and indirect expenses. And add it all up. THAT’S the amount you need to raise.

Also think about the number of donors you want to renew (also called retention) and the number of new donors you need to bring on board (donor acquisition). If you don’t pay attention to your donor numbers, you’ll find them shrinking away to nothing.

Set concrete goals for each of these key fundraising elements, then make sure the strategies you choose support these goals too, and not just the total dollars you need to raise.

Step 2. Evaluate the past.

Take a look at your numbers from the last year. Look at what you raised and what you spent to raise it. Then ask yourself these questions:

  • What worked?
  • What didn’t?
  • Which fundraising activities gave you the best ROI?

Once you have some data, you can make decisions about which activities to repeat and which ones to stop. Hint: don’t keep doing something just because you always have.

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

Step 3. Assess your strengths.

Before you choose strategies, get clear about what you have to work with in terms of organizational assets and personal strengths.

Organizational assets are things that will make fundraising easier, like great name recognition, a tour-able facility, or a mission with wide-spread appeal. Once you identify these, decide on the best ways to leverage them.

For example, if your facility lends itself well to a tour, make sure you’re having an Open House or an event at your place so people can see first-hand the work your nonprofit does.

Your fundraising plan should also play to your personal strengths. For example, if you’re a great speaker, you definitely need to be giving presentations at local civic clubs and churches and making an appearance on TV. If you’re a good writer, you definitely should be blogging and doing written appeals for donations.

Make a list of what you have to work with and keep it handy as you consider possible fundraising strategies for the coming year.

Step 4. Choose profitable strategies.

As you’re thinking about your upcoming year, pick the strategies that will give you a good return on your investment of time, money, and energy. Not sure what to choose? Use the 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 afterward. And make sure it makes you plenty of money so it’s worth the effort.

In fact, shoot for an ROI of about 4 to 1 (make $4 for every $1 you spend). Most events don’t come anywhere close to that! When yours does, you’ll feel really good about hosting it every year and you’ll know it’s generating the dollars you need to support your nonprofit’s work.

Get 10 grants.

Actually, get all the grant money you can. Most nonprofits can find about 10 good strong grant opportunities over the course of the year. If you don’t have that many, you may want to do a little research to see what else is out there for you.

Find 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 (I define active as having given sometime in the last 15 months). Then, work on adding 100. When you get those, go find another hundred. By taking it in smaller bites, you’ll successfully reach your goal in no time.

And where do you find new donors? Start with those already invested in your organization – ask your volunteers to give. Ask 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.

Step 5. Flesh out the details.

As you plan for each individual fundraising strategy you choose, get clear about:

  •  The outcome you want.
  • The resources you’ll need.
  • How much time it will take.
  • Who will see it through to completion.
  • How you’ll evaluate success

When you plan out this level of detail for each strategy, you’ll increase your chances of success exponentially!

You can use this event checklist to guide your answers to these important questions.

Step 6. Put the plan in writing.

As you answer these questions, write down your answers. Grab my “1 Page Quick and Simple Fundraising Plan” and start filling in the blanks. It’ll get you started, which is half the battle. And remember, if it’s not in writing, it’s not real.

Mark your calendar to revisit this plan the first of every month to see how you’re doing. Monitoring your progress is key to success. After all, you can’t manage what you don’t measure.

Step 7. Get your Board on board.

One of the keys to successfully raising the money you need is to get help. You can’t do this on your own.

The first people you should turn to are your Board members. Unfortunately, many nonprofits have Board members that are afraid of fundraising, so you have to work with what you’ve got until you can develop your Board into a fundraising Board (it’s really possible!).

So, here’s what you can do. Share your plan with your Board Chair or other leaders. Ask them where they’d like to participate to support your efforts. Then share the plan with the entire Board, with your Chair or other leaders sharing where they’ll be helping.

You should get an idea of where everyone is willing to help and that will strengthen your relationship with your Board and give you confidence moving forward with your plan.

If you have Board members who are unresponsive or don’t seem to want to help, let it go for now. Don’t chase them and don’t try to force them to agree to something, because even if they do, they probably won’t follow through. Just know that you’ve got Board engagement issues to address.

Bonus! Step 8. Monitor the plan.

Once your plan is created, keep it handy. You need to review it at least once a month to make sure you’re on track. Make adjustments as you need to, but don’t toss it if something goes sideways or if something unexpected happens.

Remember, this is the plan you’ve put time and thought into, and it’s the plan that will move you forward in big steps toward funding your dreams.

Sandy Rees, founder and chief of Get Fully Funded, contributed this article on written fundraising plans. Sandy is a prolific writer who’s appeared in past issues of Fundraising Success Magazine, at, where she’s a Platinum Author, on the Get Fully Funded blog, or as a guest blogger on dozens of sites on the net.

Once you’ve got a solid written fundraising plan, start a Booster to design fundraising t-shirts for your next crowdfunding campaign!

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