Fundraising 101

Top Three Tools You Need for a Successful Fundraising Year

This blog post was originally published by Giving Tree Associates.

It’s the beginning of February and the year is well underway. Maybe it’s smooth sailing in your fundraising department. Perhaps you spent the end of last year planning for the year and you have a roadmap and the tools and materials you need for a successful year already in place. Hats off to you if you fall into that category!

But if you’re more like my clients and many of the nonprofits out there, you’re trying to hold it all together. You probably have limited resources (don’t we all?!) and BIG goals. You may be wondering how you can best set yourself and your fundraising team up for success this year.

You’ve come to the right place. Over the next three weeks, we’re going to share the top three tools that you need right now to ensure a successful fundraising year. And as always, we’ll include freebies loaded with helpful information to get you on the path to success. Let’s jump into our first tool.

The number one tool for a successful fundraising year… a fundraising plan!

I’m a planner by nature. Every Friday afternoon I lay out my task list for the next week. Crossing items off my list is therapeutic. I plan as a way to calm myself. I know that having a plan allows me to be more executional in nature which helps me get more done. And when I get my work done, I’m able to spend time with my husband and son, workout or read a book. Needless to say, planning excites me.

If you’re like most of my friends and clients, you’re probably thinking, what a nerd! And yes, you’re right. You may also be thinking:

  • Planning sounds great, but who has the time to plan?
  • I know what needs to get done, why do I need to write it down in a formal plan?
  • How will having a formal plan help me reach my goals?
  • Planning seems overwhelming, where do I even begin?

These are all great questions. Let’s answer them one-by-one:

Planning sounds great, but who has the time to plan?

Think about the day-to-day at your organization. Maybe you’re managing a development shop on your own or you have a small shop. You’re likely wearing many hats and being pulled in many directions. You may be caught in the here and now – there’s a stack of gifts to be a processed, a list of calls to be made, an event to be planned, a board meeting next week, a grant report due, and that’s just the beginning. You may feel like a pinball bouncing from task to task just hoping to get it all done without anything important falling through the cracks. Who has time to plan with all of this? I know the feeling. I’ve been there too. It can feel totally overwhelming, like we’re stuck in quicksand and can’t find a way out.

I know you may find this hard to believe but stick with me for a minute… there is a way out! And that way out is through creating a fundraising plan.

By creating a fundraising plan you’ll have a roadmap for your year. You’ll know where you want to go and how you’re going to get there. You’ll have a chance to see the year in front of you and to make sure the goals and activities are realistic given your team and resources. You’ll outline key benchmarks throughout the year that will help you stay on track to reach your goals. And by creating the roadmap for the year you’ll have a clear well thought out direction to guide you on your journey. By doing the big picture thinking and planning up front, you’ll have more time in your day to execute on your plans.

We all have time to plan. We just have to prioritize it.

I know what needs to get done, why do I need to write it down in a formal plan?

Having a written fundraising plan helps you raise more money and we can all benefit from raising more money, right? According to The Individual Donor Benchmark Report from Third Space Studio, organizations with a written fundraising plan:

  • Raise a higher percentage of their budget from individual donors
  • Have almost twice as many individual donors  
  • Have an average gift that is $135 higher

The simple act of thinking through a plan and writing it down will make your fundraising shop more successful.

How will having a formal plan help me reach my goals?

It’s hard to reach goals that haven’t been defined. Luckily, in order to create a fundraising plan, you’ll have to define your goals. Once you set goals, you’ll create strategies and tactics to help you reach those goals. This will become your roadmap to success.

As I mentioned above, having a roadmap helps you stay focused. It allows you to work on the things that need to get done and maybe more important than that, it gives you an easy way to say no when potential distractions arise. Think about that board member who always has great and lavish ideas that take hours to implement and yield little results. What if you had a way to thank that donor for their idea and let them know you would consider it when planning for next year? With a fundraising plan, that becomes an easy conversation.

Planning seems overwhelming, where do I even begin?

The thought of creating a plan can be overwhelming, especially if you’ve never done it before. First things first, take a deep breath. I can pretty much promise you that creating a plan is easier than you’ve made it out to be in your head. And we’re here to help get you started. In this week’s freebie we share a checklist of what to include in your plan.

Happy planning!