So you’re asking yourself: I need a fundraising plan. Where do I start?

Research has shown that organizations with a fundraising plan raise more money than organizations that don’t have a fundraising plan, so I applaud you for recognizing the need to have one.

It can feel a little overwhelming, and it’s difficult to know where to start. So let me provide you with some simple steps that will set you up for success:

1) Get some buy in. Let your colleagues know that you’re putting together a plan, allow them to input into the process (but not drive the process), and be sure to share your progress on the plan, along with the plan itself with them once it’s complete. The more buy in you have, the more likely you are to achieve your objectives.

2) Determine your strategic goals. For example, is your goal to increase your donor base, or increase your net revenue? The two require different strategies. Do you need to diversify your revenue? Are you anxious to grow the percentage of your donors who give monthly? Listing your goals in order of priority will help you develop strategies that work. And don’t forget to involve other people in this discussion. The fundraising goals need to support the organizational goals.

3) Figure out the current state of affairs. Do some analysis around the past few years of fundraising. Divide your fundraising activities by tactic (special events, major gifts, direct marketing, etc.) and calculate the return on investment (ROI) and/or the cost per dollar raised (CPDR) of each activity. Don’t forget to include staff and volunteer time when you’re figuring out expenses. If you’re able to, also determine your key performance indicators (KPIs) within each tactic: retention rates, conversion rates and average gifts are a good place to start. It may be helpful to dig up some sector benchmarks to compare your organization to. (Need help with the math, or the benchmarks? Let me know).

4) Determine your tactical portfolio going forward. Is your current tactical portfolio the tactical portfolio that will help you meet your goals? For example, if your goal is to increase net revenue, adding more special events is probably not the best tactic. Special events, typically, are good for raising awareness, and good for engagement, but they aren’t great from a fundraising point of view. Do you need to invest heavily in acquisition (if your goal is to increase the number of donors)? Write down where you are now and where you need to be in a year, or two years, or even three if you’re feeling ambitious, and match those goals to the tactics that will get you there. That might mean cutting down on special events, and increasing resources that go into major gift fundraising, as an example.

5) Resources. Now that you know your tactical portfolio, and have a good sense of your goals, figure out whether or not you have the resources you need to get there. Consider staff, volunteer, financial and technical resources. If you need more than what you currently have, will that be possible? If not, you may need to cut your goals back a bit and, instead, be more efficient with the resources you already have.

So this was supposed to a very short ‘where to start’ article, but I have so many thoughts that I could probably write a book. From here, you want to get your plan in writing, think about how to measure your progress, and consider a plan review process. There are lots of templates and examples available online, or through the AFP Resource Center if you’re an AFP member. Or perhaps I need to write part 2?

Have questions? Need Help? Contact me.

This post was written by Leah Eustace, ACFRE, former Principal and Chief Idea Goddess at Good Works. 

Banner image by Andi Sidwell from Flickr via Creative Commons.