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Nonprofit Strategies

Create an annual fundraising plan in 9 easy steps (free template!)

Learn how to make an annual fundraising plan for your nonprofit, and set yourself up for success in the new year with a free fundraising template.

Kristine Ensor
December 29, 2023
December 21, 2022
Nerd Mr Butter

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Fundraising without a clear-cut strategy is like setting off on an exciting road trip without a map. You might make it to your destination, but not without many wrong turns, distractions, and missed opportunities along the way. 

In this article, we’ll walk through nine steps for creating a fundraising plan—and get you started with a free fundraising plan template to help bring your ideas to life.

What is a fundraising plan? 

A nonprofit fundraising plan is a living document—part to-do list and part fundraising calendar—that helps your team create the right strategies, prioritize tasks, and remain laser-focused on your ultimate goals and mission.

Each plan is different, but many include one major organizational goal for the year (increase donations, expand programs, etc.), a fundraising budget, a timeline, and specific activities and resources you’ll use to knock out your objectives.

How to write a fundraising plan in 9 steps

Each annual fundraising plan outline is different, depending on the organization, but most will cover the following steps: 

Step 1: Evaluate past efforts 📊

Before starting on this year’s plan, you must review past years to see where you’ve found success and where you can improve. This is your opportunity to get your team in one room, draw out insights, and ultimately create a data-driven plan. 

Ask yourselves:

  • What strategies worked in the past, and what didn’t?
  • How did events from the previous year affect your nonprofit’s fundraising efforts?
  • Did you meet your financial goals?
  • What did past fundraisers and campaigns tell you about donors?
  • Do you have strategies and moves management plans for each donor segment?

Step 2: Recap your organization’s mission 💛

Anytime that you are making plans or organizing something within your nonprofit, keep your mission in mind, particularly:

  • Who you are trying to help and the issue at hand
  • What you will do to address the matter and your nonprofit’s role
  • How your work will have broader implications in your community 

Articulating these ideas with your team will ensure that everyone is in line with your mission through each step of your fundraising plan.

Remember, potential supporters will want to understand what drives the organization before they give. They want to know their money is going to a worthy cause with a strong leadership team. 

Step 3: Consider strengths and weaknesses 💪

Your nonprofit’s strengths and weaknesses affect every part of your fundraising strategy. Use the following questions to examine donors' experiences, your communications, and how donors react to your current fundraising activities:

  • What are new donors interested in?
  • What do your existing donors want?
  • Do you have a large group of donors?
  • Do you have a diverse fundraising strategy?  
  • Do you have a recurring donor or membership program?

Step 4: Identify opportunities and threats 🔮

Internal strengths and weaknesses will impact your fundraising efforts, but so can external opportunities and threats. Consider where your nonprofit might have room to grow, and where you might be falling short:

  • Do you offer donors multiple payment options?
  • Are your website and online donation tools mobile-friendly?
  • How do you promote your online donation pages?
  • What fundraising trends can you leverage to reach a larger audience?
  • What new tools should you test?

Step 5: Set your goals ✍️

Now you’re ready to set your fundraising goals. Remember to keep your mission (and strategic plan, if you have one) top of mind while developing these to ensure they help move your organization in the right direction.

Your annual fundraising plan should include approximately three overall objectives for the year. These could include:

  • Increasing the number of returning donors
  • Increasing the number of new donors
  • Increasing the gift size of current donors

Once you've determined your objectives, make sure they pass the SMART test:

  • Specific 🧐 Your goal has a clear purpose and outcome, and you’ve identified steps to achieve it.
  • Measurable 📐Your progress toward your goal is measurable using quantitative metrics, like dollars or percentages.
  • Achievable 💪 Your goal is realistic for your nonprofit’s size, budget, available resources, and timeline.
  • Relevant 💡 Your goal is relevant to your nonprofit’s mission, vision, values, and beneficiaries.
  • Time-bound ⌛ Your goal has a concrete deadline or timeframe that will provide motivation and help you prioritize.

To help create these SMART goals, ask yourself questions like:

  • How many donors do you need?
  • How will you reach them?
  • How much can you raise from each donor type?

Step 6: Determine your fundraising methods 🎨

Once you’ve defined your goals, you can decide on the fundraising strategies that will get you there. These methods can cover a range of different activities, like major donor outreach, foundation grants, corporate sponsorships, fundraising events, peer-to-peer campaigns, and recurring donation drives. 

Here’s a fundraising plan example in action:

Goal: Raise $200,000 this year in individual contributions 

  • Strategy 1: Launch two major peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns.
  • Strategy 2: Target longtime donors with a monthly giving campaign.
  • Strategy 3: Support all major campaigns with Facebook ads.
  • Strategy 4: Turn on the “add-a-donation” option for all online ticket purchases.

Step 7: Assign roles and tasks 👤

Now it’s time to draw up your game plan and assemble team members from your nonprofit organization—whether paid staff, board members, or volunteers—to bring that plan to life. 

Some roles might include:

  • Event coordinator: In order to ensure everything goes smoothly, choose one person to spearhead all of your fundraising event initiatives (coordinating vendors, setting up, etc.). 
  • Marketing and promotion coordinator: This team member will handle marketing efforts, including email communications, social media ads, and more.
  • Stewardship coordinator: Designate one employee or supporter as the person responsible for connecting with major donors and other important target audience members to build relationships.
  • Volunteer coordinator: This staff member will manage your volunteers, whether they’re helping out at events or in the office. 

Step 8: Build your budget 🧮

Take a look at your past nonprofit budget to help you determine financial goals for each fundraising activity for the coming year. Consider items like:

  • Your total expenses last year 📉 Pay attention to administrative costs (rent, payroll, insurance), programming costs (education, services, supplies), marketing and fundraising costs (fundraising software, campaign materials, payment processing), and any additional expenses.
  • Your total revenue last year 📈 This could include individual donations, ticket sales, merchandise sales, corporate matches, government grants, private grants, and so on.

Step 9: Create your fundraising calendar 🗓️

A fundraising calendar will put your plan into action with dates, team roles and responsibilities, and deadlines, as well as any upcoming events to be aware of. 

Keep in mind specific holidays and popular times of year for giving:

  • Giving Tuesday: The Tuesday directly after Thanksgiving, #GivingTuesday is one of the most popular days for nonprofit fundraising, with millions of donors joining in each year.
  • Year-end: The final quarter of the year, particularly December, often brings in major gifts. In fact, the end of the year accounts for 30% of all annual giving

Be sure to build in margins of time and funding for unexpected events or needs that relate to your organization and mission. 

To help you stay on track, make sure your schedule includes regular check-in meetings with your team to review the plan and answer the following questions:

  • What’s working and what isn’t?
  • What’s our revenue progress?
  • What's the next thing we need to prepare for?

Download your annual fundraising plan template

Need a sample fundraising plan to get started? Bring all your ideas to life with this easy template.

Match your plan with the right fundraising platform

As a nonprofit, you must find ways to raise significant funds with limited expenses, and there’s nothing better than finding software that helps you reach your goals without taking a chunk out of your hard-earned dollars.

Givebutter is a free, all-in-one fundraising platform that helps nonprofits do everything they need to raise money, plan events and auctions, track donations, build relationships, and a whole lot more. 

Sign up for free and see how Givebutter can make your fundraising easy, fun, and as smooth as butter—for everyone.  

Get started
Set up your peer-to-peer fundraiser for free in just a few minutes →

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