That Fundraising Plan

Summer is almost half gone.  We’re heading rapidly into the fourth quarter, and I’m hearing from a lot of nonprofits that unless things change, they will not meet their fundraising goals.

This is nothing new.  August usually brings me lots of queries from organizations who seem to suddenly realize that they are not bringing in needed funds and, as a result, they start seeking solutions.  Usually magical ones.

I ask to see all things development:  appeals, collateral materials, database, their development plan.  I get shown letters, brochures, donor lists or with not enough information to segment or profile.  And a plan?  At best I see something that talks about the need for annual giving, grants, and maybe major gifts.  But that is description.  A plan is something else entirely.

The Business Dictionary, defines a plan as “Written account of intended future course of action (scheme) aimed at achieving specific goal(s) or objective(s) within a specific timeframe.”  Note the important elements here:
1.  It is written.   If it is “in (your) head” it is not a plan.  It is an idea, a thought, a wish.  A plan is concrete, specific.  Something you and others can follow.

2.  There is a course of action.  Rather than stating that you need to do an annual campaign, it spells out the elements of that campaign. Your plan will show what you doing and why you are doing it.  This leads to the next element:

3. Goals are for each revenue stream.  This may be the amount you will raise, the number of new prospects or donors, or even something more qualitative than quantitative (i.e.:  “increase visibility).

4.  There is a specific timeframe.  This is, arguably, the most important element of your plan.  It is the best way to evaluate your ongoing success.  If, by chance, you happen to get a windfall—say a loyal donor leaves you a huge chunk in her will—if that is the only fundraising you’ve done this year, even if it exceeds your goal, you have not been successful as you will not be able to replicate this next year.  A successful fundraising plan means that you will develop a sustainable way to keep charitable funds flowing.

 Janet Levine works with nonprofits and educational organizations, helping them to increase fundraising capacity.  Learn more at  While there, sign up for the free newsletter.