Many non-profits, especially smaller groups without staffing, tend to operate without creating an annual fundraising plan. The most likely scenario is that an organization understands that they need to raise money, someone comes up with a brilliant idea and then the group puts together a group of volunteers and makes it happen. Sound familiar? In addition, the group may send out a targeted fundraising letter here and there, host a couple of face-to-face donor meetings, and when the bank account gets close to “zero” goes into “panic mode” racing around in search of some generous donors who can step up – refill the coffers and help keep the doors open.
This is most definitely not the best way to run a fundraising program even if your organization has a healthy reserve, not to mention the group that is living day to day trying to keep the books in balance. Running an organization without a thoughtful planned out fundraising strategy is a recipe for stress, headaches, and potential financial disaster.
So, how do you avoid it? The very best way I know is to put together a written fundraising plan. No matter how small your chorus, or how advanced or simple your current fundraising practices are, you need a comprehensive fundraising plan. A well designed plan will allow you to focus your efforts, plan out an annual calendar of fundraising activities, and give you guidance on what strategies and tactics to utilize when you are in the thick of events, mailings, and calls. Your fundraising plan will keep you grounded as you navigate the craziness associated with raising money.
Your Plan: Who and When
The first things you need to determine are: when should you write it and who should do it. When would be like “right now!” If you don’t have a fundraising plan then take a few weeks to sit down and write out a plan – do it asap! To start, it might be simpler to plan for a single year – I actually prefer to write a three year plan, and then I go back and review and tweak that plan at the beginning of each subsequent year.
Who should write it? If you are lucky enough to have development staff (like a development director), assign it to them and have them work with your ED and/or board leadership. If you don’t then it is probably best for the E.D. or chorus manager to write up a plan, again, in consultation with the non-profit’s board of directors. If you have the resources you can seek assistance from a qualified development consultant, many of whom specialize in writing fundraising plans.
So you don’t have staff or the funds to hire a consultant? Then I would suggest that you bring together chorus leadership or a few folks with development experience to sit down and working together create a development plan that is doable and sets your group up to succeed. The committee doesn’t need to be large but it should include a few people who have some fundraising experience who can help you create a balanced plan that maximizes your chance of success.
So what should your Fundraising Plan look like?
Okay! You know you need to write your plan, you now know who is going to write it, and that person has sat down and talked with all the appropriate folks, so now it’s time to write. Here are some things that need to be part of the plan:
The best starting point for your plan is to know where you are going: what is your overall fundraising goal? (If you are doing a multi-year plan: what is your fundraising goal for this year, and each subsequent year of your multi-year plan?). This number should not some fantasy that you make up but based on the needs of the organization. How much money does your group need to successfully raise in order to carry out the activities that you want to accomplish?
The Mission / Your Message
So if your goal answers the question, “How much money do you need?” then your mission should answer the question, “What do you need it for?” What is your organization’s mission? How will you send the money you raise? What are your current and future operating budgets? Why is it the amount it is?
How do you raise it?
Once you know how much and why you need to raise it, then you need to figure out how you are going raise it! What specific things will you use to raise your goal this year? How about the next year or the year after that? Get down into details here by figuring out a financial target for each of the things you are doing that adds up to your total goal. (For example, if you would like to raise $5,000 you might determine that you will raise $2,500 through a major donor campaign, $1,500 through a special event and the remainder through an email campaign. Some common ways to raise funds include:
- Individual Giving – Asking major donors to make gifts to your organization.
- Major Donor Groups – May include board giving, a finance or development committee, etc.
- Events – Both large and small.
- Direct, Online, and E-Mail Campaigns
- Grants– Foundations, Corporate, Government
- Corporate Giving Programs
- Like walk-a-thons and chili cook-offs
- Annual Giving and Multi-Year Giving Campaign
When it comes to fundraising, there are no shortage of ways to raise money, just a limited amount of staff and volunteer resources to implement your ideas. Try to include a good mix of fundraising strategies, and be willing to eliminate ideas that end up not working, and put in place ways to make up the lost revenue in other ways.
Many choruses fail here – groups come up with a solid budget, have a great mission, and put together a plan that includes a strong fundraising game plan, but fail to establish a working calendar, and as a result never seem to make the plan work.
Some fundraisers develop plans that show only basic timelines: Hold an event in February, send out a mailing in July, run a board giving campaign in August. I think a more detailed approach that lists not only the big goals, but the smaller goals that help make the bigger goals a reality is a better approach. For example, instead of just listing that you are having an event in February, you would list when decisions on venue and food need to happen, when sponsors will be solicited, when invitations go to print, when you mail, etc.
Whichever type of timeline you decide to adopt, adopt one… it will make you to think critically through your fundraising decisions, and will provide invaluable guidance on your fundraising activities as the year progresses.
If you have questions or would like to see a sample of my fundraising plan please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org . Hope you find this information useful and here’s to your current and future fundraising success!