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Creating a Fundraising Plan

Resource Center - Foundation

Planning. Ugh. Don’t you hate the thought of putting a plan together?

Most people do—probably because they’ve had a bad experience somewhere along the line in creating a plan.

Planning doesn’t have to be hard or take a lot of time, but it does require some serious thought. Carve out a little time to at least get the basics, if not all the detail for your coming year, and you’ll find that your chances for success increase exponentially.

A good fundraising plan is a roadmap to success and shows you how to allocate your precious resources of time and money. It keeps you out of crisis mode and helps you control the flow of work in your office. When you have a good plan in place, you should never wonder what you need to work on during the day because your plan will guide you. 

A written plan should contain the Who, What, When, and How Much information about each fundraising strategy and goal you are working toward.  Your plan should clearly state your overall and specific fundraising goals along with potential sources of donors and strategies to reach those donors.  And, it should include an implementation plan along with the action steps needed to make it happen.

Before you start working on a plan, you need to do a little research and gather up some information that will help you put your plan together, like:

  • Your organization’s strategic direction.
  • Your organization’s goals for the year.
  • Your fundraising revenue/expense history.
  • Your organization’s current budget.


Gathering information before you start will help you create a fundraising plan that is supportive of your organization’s overall goals and needs, and keep you from chasing dollars that lead to mission drift. 

Don’t be tempted to cheat and create a fundraising plan to “raise a lot of money” or “get lots of new donors”.  It’s tough to measure vague goals, and you can’t tell when you’ve crossed the finish line. 

As you’re thinking through your plan, ask yourself these questions:

1. How much money do we need to raise? You need a specific goal for your plan. If you just want to “raise more money” you’re setting yourself up for failure. After all, how much is more money? $1 more? $100 more? $1,000,000 more?

2. Where will the money come from? You need a mix of revenue streams to ensure the health of your organization. Will you raise money from individuals? Foundations? Events? Don’t set a goal without knowing the specific source of that revenue. And don’t try to raise all the money from just one source.  If all your revenue comes from one grant or one special event, you’re flirting with disaster.  If something happens to that one revenue stream, you’ll find yourself struggling to keep the doors open.

3. Who will we ask? Be specific. Who will you ask for money? Create lists of potential donors to ask.  Don’t expect the community at-large to support you (it won’t happen).  You need to target current donors, lapsed donors, and warm prospects.  Cold calling doesn’t work too well in fundraising and it’s no fun, plus we all hate it, so don’t go there.

4. When will we ask? Create a calendar of when you will ask. Include grant deadlines, events, etc. to get a complete picture of your year. You’ll be so glad you did this when things get hectic because you’ll always know what’s coming up next!

5. How much will we ask for? You need to think through the amount you will request from each donor. You may have to do a little research in some cases to find out how much is appropriate, particularly if you’re working with major givers. I suggest you tie it to something tangible, if possible.  For example, how much does it cost to provide service to someone?  What does it cost to provide a meal or a night’s lodging?  What does it cost to spay or neuter an animal? When you can ask someone for a gift that means something, they’ll be more likely to say “yes.”

6. How will we follow up on a gift? You need to know how you will thank your donors, how you will steward gifts, and how you will build relationships. Think this out in advance.  This is NOT the time to cut corners or be reactive.

7. How soon will we ask again? Don’t be afraid to ask several times during the year for a gift. If you only ask once during the year, I promise you that you are leaving money on the table! If you are doing a good job building relationships with your donors, they WANT to support the work you are doing. Make it easy for them by giving them multiple opportunities to give.

As you work through your plan, be prepared to monitor it and modify it as you go.  Things change and you need to be ready to shift as needed.

Catch Rees’s Webinar to discuss these steps more in-depth and ask specific questions about your fundraising plan on Thursday, June 6, 1:00 – 2:30 p.m. EST. To register, click here.

Sandy Rees, CFRE, is a Fundraising Coach/Consultant who shows nonprofit leaders how to raise the money they need to fund their mission. She’s the author of “Get Fully Funded: How to Raise the Money of Your Dreams.” Learn more at

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