Developing a Fundraising Habit

A habit, it is believed, takes about 21 days to develop. Whether you believe those numbers or not, I do know that whenever I have a break in my routine, I find it really hard to get back on track.  So, for seven weeks (almost twice the requisite 21 days), while I was still working, I was doing it in London—a different timeframe, different space, different it all--and now that I am back, I feel a bit off-center, as if I’m not sure where I am. I fear that I will need 21 days to get myself back on track. A lot of fundraising never gets to the habit-forming stage.  One thing is tried—then dropped; another thing started, but never continued.  Is it any wonder that organizations feel that they never get to the good times?

Creating a fundraising habit starts with a commitment.  It needs to be a commitment of everyone at every level in the organization.  Fundraising is important, and its importance needs to be recognized and resourced.  But fundraising also needs a plan and that is where so many organizations fall.

Fundraising plans, in my experience, too often are descriptions of types of fundraising and techniques that might be used.  While there is a place for this information, it is not the fundraising plan itself.

That plan clearly outlines the various streams of fundraising that are and will be part of the plan.  It will include streams from individuals, corporation, foundations.  Then it will drill down to the various techniques that your organization will be using within the larger revenue stream.  For example, for individual donors, you might have a major gift program in which you will use house parties and face to face solicitations;  corporate giving might include event sponsorships as well as other gift opportunities.  For each of these, write a description, purpose and strategy, goals, and the frequency of the technique.  Some things will be ongoing; others once or several times a years.  A few things might be monthly.

Once you have this down, you get to the really important part of the plan:  the tools that will help you implement it.  These include a timeline—probably the most important tool.  This is a master calendar for all  your activities and includes timeframes for deadlines, appeals, production of materials, events, meetings, etc.  It also shows who is the primary owner of that activity.

The second tool is metrics for each activity. I’m not a big fan of dollar metrics, so I try to push them to more specific measurements such as number of new major donor prospects, number of meetings, how many house parties, etc.

No plan is complete without a budget.  You must know what it will cost.  If the plan has some sort of campaign, gift tables can be helpful.

With the plan in hand, you are well on your way to developing a strong and vibrant fundraising habit.

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