Many nonprofits engage in strategic planning to help direct the future of their organization, but what about strategic fundraising planning? Using the framework of strategic planning to create longer-term fundraising goals and a guide to reaching them can help you level up your fundraising from year to year.
This type of planning is different from budgeting – a strategic fundraising plan will be your map to reaching your total budget. The process of creating and finalizing a development strategy will keep your organization focused on its twin goals of engaging in the work itself and securing funding to support that work.
Use these six steps to determine how your team can streamline and increase fundraising to set your nonprofit up for sustainability and longevity.
1. Reflect on what’s working and what isn’t
First, do an “audit” of your current funding streams. Engage your development team in this work to gain a full picture of what support you are receiving in different areas:
- How much do we receive in individual donations, major donations, grants, event donations, etc. each year?
- What is the ideal support level in each of those areas for your organization to continue sustaining itself?
Be realistic about both your staff’s time and external factors. It’s better to do less and do it well.
2. Define consistent sources of support
A key outcome of this audit should be identifying your organization’s consistent sources of support.
- Who are your true-believer major donors?
- Who are your long-term grant makers?
- Who are the individuals or families who donate small amounts consistently?
Use tools at your disposal (intern assistance, donor databases) to find patterns among your current supporters – which donors have the capacity to increase giving, or where can you develop stronger connections that will lead you to new funding streams?
3. Review programmatic goals
Fundraising work typically involves an external and an internal component. The external component is often more familiar to fundraisers – where are we advocates for our organization’s work in spaces where people may not know the details? But we can often forget the importance of the internally-facing side – making sure that we are up-to-date on the latest programmatic developments, so that we are able to share with outside partners.
As fundraising staff, it’s important to create infrastructure in your organization to keep these channels of communication active; creating quarterly update meetings with program staff is an excellent way to ensure that development staff members are more integrated into program activities. Use online collaboration tools and shared documents and spreadsheets to keep everyone engaged.
4. Set two-year objectives
General strategic planning will often use a lens of five to ten years, but because of the vagaries of the funding landscape, making a strategic fundraising plan that far into the future can present more problems than it solves. However, being able to use a slightly longer lens does still have its advantages, which is why doing fundraising planning for two (or even three) years into the future can be very beneficial.
Nonprofits must follow certain accounting rules that can make it difficult to plan for a helpful future windfall, but applying for multi-year grants, engaging in planned giving, and working to increase a rotation of monthly donors are all elements of strategic fundraising planning that can help create long-term stability, even when working within the shorter timeline nonprofit accounting requires.
5. Identify new targets
A key part of your strategic fundraising planning will be to identify new targets to approach. Using the work you’ve done in steps 1-4 will help lead you to a point where you will need to identify new sources of funding over the next two years.
Plan out your new funder solicitations strategically. See what gaps need to be filled over time and be thoughtful in how you plan to do that; for example, if you need to ramp up your individual donations over the next two years, take time to cultivate a relationship before actually asking for money. Planning in advance allows you to create the kind of connections that will foster longevity in your organization’s funding relationships.
6. Cultivate a strong online presence
A strong internet presence makes your strategic fundraising plan much easier for you! As a fundraiser, you are an advocate for your organization, but it is simply not possible for you to cover all the bases. Let your nonprofit’s “personality” do this for you in different ways – get your organization’s name out there so that people can find you easily and can’t forget you easily!
- Make sure your nonprofit has a website and is easily searchable
- Use social media consistently to showcase your mission and impact
- Get the word out about your work in press mentions
Once you have gained a specific donor, maintain regular and meaningful contact with them – send handwritten thank you notes and updates about your work. Finally, connect with similar groups in your area or subject matter for more exposure – you can uplift each other’s work, enhancing exposure for all.
Does your nonprofit need assistance with developing a strategic fundraising plan?