Building the perfect fundraising plan for your nonprofit organization can seem overwhelming, especially if you don’t have years of experience conducting campaigns.
However, building the perfect plan or enhancing your current strategy isn’t as hard as it might seem. While there are quite a few moving parts to coordinate, it’s simply an effort of understanding how those pieces fit together.
At DNL OmniMedia, we work with nonprofit organizations to make the most of their fundraising technology. We’ve seen firsthand how having the right tools at your disposal can make or break a campaign. From your initial goals to your final follow-ups, we’re convinced that the perfect fundraising plan can be condensed into 10 essential components:
- Goals for your fundraising plan.
- An updated toolkit.
- An understanding of your audience.
- A strong and energized team.
- A clearly outlined calendar.
- A plan for engaging events.
- Multi-platform communications strategy.
- A strategy for the unknown.
- Method of post-campaign analysis.
- A plan for following up with supporters.
This guide will explore these components as well as take a look at how they all coordinate together to form your fundraising plan. Let’s dive in.
1. Goals for your fundraising plan.
The first step for any major nonprofit initiative is gaining a solid understanding of what you hope to accomplish with it. In order to outline any of your fundraising efforts, you need to know what you’re working toward.
When setting these goals, you want to be as specific as possible. Consider the following examples:
- Reaching a specific overall fundraising amount.
- Acquiring a certain number of new donors.
- Increasing your current donor retention rate.
- Growing engagement with your digital fundraising methods.
Each of the above examples illustrates a different way your organization may define success. The key here is to identify what defines success for your organization, for your upcoming fundraiser, and orient the rest of your efforts going forward around it.
When you set these goals, aim to be as concrete as possible. If you can, assign a numerical value (ex: “Raise X in online donations.”) so you can confidently measure success at various benchmarks as your plan is carried out.
2. An updated toolkit.
When building your fundraising plan, you’ll ideally be doing so with nonprofit technology solutions that are performing at their highest ability. Your organization’s technology solutions can inform every aspect of your fundraising plan, from collecting donor data to interacting with key supporters. This tech needs to be at the top of its game for your plan to work.
At Team DNL, we often recommend that organizations conduct a technology audit prior to a major campaign to make sure their solutions are up to par. This audit will:
- Refresh your team’s memory when it comes to your tech stack. If you’ve invested in tools that are seldom used but could possibly come in handy for this next campaign— now’s the time to clear the dust or re-evaluate your investment.
- Identify gaps in your toolkit. This includes discovering which of your tech solutions don’t have the full functionality you require and discovering solutions you haven’t invested in but should.
Depending on the scope of your tech toolkit and the amount of upkeep you’ve put into it in the past, the updates you require could be wide-ranging. For example, you could require a simple database clean-up or you could require a full migration to a new CRM platform.
Whether it’s your first time considering this intersection between software and your fundraising strategy, or you simply want to revisit your processes, check out this Team DNL guide. In it, explore the steps to building a nonprofit digital strategy.
3. An understanding of your audience.
With your goals in mind and your toolkit optimized, familiarize yourself with your organization’s audience. Examine your supporter data through the lens of your goals to discover how best to communicate this opportunity to your base and rally support.
This is especially important given the reliance on digital media (think: social media, online giving) in fundraising across the world. Successfully executing your fundraising plan will be difficult if you’re unable to catch your audience’s attention online.
Retroactively consider fundraising efforts you’ve completed in the past. Were there any digital engagement methods that resonated with your audience? Were there any that were largely ignored? Optimize your digital engagement strategy with these details in mind.
In this evaluation, consider both communication platforms and giving methods. When building your campaign, aim to 1) communicate with supporters in ways they’re receptive to and 2) optimize giving methods your donors prefer to use.
4. A strong and energized team.
Your team is just as, if not more, essential to your fundraising as any software tools you employ. Rallying team members and managing them throughout the campaign is crucial to its success. After all, human connection is often why donors give— not simply because you have an attractive giving page.
Consider how the following team members play a role in your fundraising plan:
- Board Members. Any major effort your organization undertakes will need to be approved by your board, and their own connections in the community may prove invaluable. Check out this course to learn how to engage key stakeholders such as your board members.
- Staff Members. Your staff needs to be energized, excited, and ready to dive into the effort. Make sure everyone has a clear vision of the campaign’s immediate and long-term goals.
- Volunteers. Bringing on volunteers can drastically ease the burden on your organization’s staff, allowing them to complete more over the course of your fundraiser.
- Consultants. Whether nonprofit tech strategy consultants (like in this Team DNL guide) or general fundraising consultants, it can be helpful to have a third-party team member to help guide your strategy.
Fundraising requires delegation, so everyone needs to be on board and in sync for the duration of your effort.
5. A clearly outlined calendar.
As you’ve seen, your fundraising plan involves the successful coordination of many moving parts. It’s important that you set a timeline to keep each effort, staff member, and goal on track as you go forward.
Set a concrete start and end date for the overall effort. From there, include:
- Concrete deadlines for particular efforts. For example, activities such as initial marketing, events, and post-fundraiser thank-yous should be scheduled.
- Benchmarks to check your success along the way. Designate two or three intervals at which you can evaluate your success up until that point.
Communicate this calendar to your entire team. This ensures everyone involved understands the expectations for their involvement and is able to stay on track when the effort truly gets busy.
6. A plan for engaging events.
Events pose an interesting duality for nonprofits. While they have high fundraising potential, they also often require extensive resources to be successful.
However, the intensive planning required for events shouldn’t deter you from making the most of this fundraising avenue. There are a wide variety of event types spanning effort levels, such as:
- Ticketed events such as galas or concerts.
- Silent and live auctions.
- Large public events like festivals or carnivals.
- Simpler, easy-to-host events like raffles and walk-a-thons.
Consider your organization’s current bandwidth and what you’ll be able to handle. Are there any ways that you can leverage technology to make the effort more worthwhile for your organization? Can you call on volunteers to reduce the strain on your staff?
Successful fundraising events don’t have to be a drain on your resources. If you dedicate time to creating your events plan with an eye to efficiency, it will be a worthwhile endeavor.
7. Multi-platform communications strategy.
Another essential element of your fundraising plan is how you’re going to communicate efforts to supporters. They can’t participate if they don’t know about the opportunities to do so!
One communication method that’s growing in popularity is using a multi-channel communication strategy. That means balancing multiple communications methods, guided by the platforms that your members are most active on. When building your tech-savvy engagement strategy, consider using the following outlets:
- Your website. Your organization’s website is often the first point of digital engagement with a supporter, and it should serve as a central hub for your fundraising campaign. It should host donation forms, provide educational content, and serve links to your other online engagement methods.
- Social media platforms. Social media is the top trending method of donor engagement in 2020, and it’s easy to see why. When it comes to optimizing these platforms, aim to choose one or two that your audience is most active on and optimize communications through those platforms. Create content that engages your current audience, interests potential supporters, and strategically drives them towards your main goal.
- Mobile outlets. This could mean drawing on SMS marketing, such as peer-to-peer texting and text-to-give. You could even bring aspects of your fundraiser to mobile apps, especially if you’re hosting a major outreach-based campaign. Draw inspiration from advocacy apps for nonprofits, a popular solution you can learn about in this guide.
Just as each of your supporters will prefer to give through different methods, each supporter will also prefer to communicate with you differently. With a multi-platform strategy— and strong storytelling— you’ll have a better chance of contacting them all.
8. A strategy for the unknown.
Whether natural disasters, recessions, or global pandemics (such as the COVID-19 pandemic affecting so many right now), it’s crucial that your organization outlines contingency plans in the event that you’re unable to fundraise as originally scheduled.
When crisis strikes, nonprofit organizations and the services they provide are more needed than ever before. At the same time, fundraising becomes significantly more difficult. When this happens, having a strong digital strategy in place is crucial.
In preparation for times where you’re unable to fundraise as planned, consider outlining digital processes for handling:
- Fundraising, including how you can take events digital and how you can collect donations online.
- Donor stewardship, such as how you can continue communicating with donors in innovative, tech-fueled ways.
- Staff communication, such as how you can stay on course even if working remotely.
These considerations ensure your organization continues fundraising even in the most turbulent of conditions. Check out DNL OmniMedia’s guide to fundraising during COVID-19 to read a current example of creating a strategy for the unknown.
9. Method of campaign analysis.
While it would be ideal to create your initial strategy and say with confidence that it will perform optimally for your organization, that’s not always the case. As mentioned earlier about creating your fundraising calendar, you should have outlined benchmarks for evaluating the success of your campaign while in progress.
An easy way to set these benchmarks is to simply break your goals down into smaller, more achievable segments. Let’s look at one of the goals from earlier in this piece:
“Raising X amount in donations.”
For this goal, some benchmarks could be a goal fundraising amount for the first quarter, the halfway point, and the final third. If your campaign hasn’t hit the small goals by their set date, then maybe you need to evaluate your strategy.
It’s just as essential to analyze your efforts after your campaign ends, as well. Even if you’ve reached your goal, still examine the effort overall to understand the various aspects involved. Consider which aspects performed better than expected, and which did less so— this is how you’ll continue improving your performance going forward.
10. A plan for following up with supporters.
What is perhaps the most essential component of your fundraising plan has nothing to do with fundraising at all.
It almost goes without saying that you need to thank donors immediately after they’ve given. Whether a donor thank-you letter or a personal phone call from one of your staff members, it’s important that these communications are genuine and authentic.
Beyond that initial thank-you, however, you also need to follow-up with supporters after your campaign ends. Thank donors for their participation, share the campaign’s milestones, and invite feedback. This serves two key purposes:
- It shows that you remember their contribution and are grateful that they participated in your campaign.
- It gives you an opportunity to get direct feedback from supporters and continue refining going forward.
When following up with supporters after the campaign, begin with expressing gratitude and being transparent about what their gifts accomplished. Then, ask for feedback— your donors will appreciate being included in the conversation and know they’re part of the team.