A Nonprofit Fundraising Plan Example and Template to Inspire Your Organization

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Do you wish you had a roadmap that showed you exactly what you need to do to achieve your nonprofit’s fundraising and development goals? An effective nonprofit fundraising plan can do just that. While many nonprofit fundraising plans simply sit on a shelf gathering dust, there IS a way to build a better plan you’ll actually use – one that maps your fundraising goals to your organization’s goals and strategic plans, defines tangible, achievable KPIs for each of your campaigns, helps you prioritize and make time for what matters, and most importantly, ensures that your fundraising drives the revenue your nonprofit needs to advance its mission.

We create dozens of plans that check all of those boxes every year in partnership with our clients. Now, we’re pulling back the curtain and showing you how we do it with our Essential Nonprofit Fundraising Plan Template. The template is one part example, so you can see what a successful nonprofit fundraising plan looks like, and part workbook, so you can begin building your best fundraising plan ever and hitting your goals, even in the face of challenging times like these.

Here’s a look at what’s inside, and the elements you’ll need to consider when building a nonprofit fundraising plan for your organization: 

Nonprofit Fundraising Audit 

Before you begin to determine where you’re going from a fundraising perspective, it’s essential to evaluate where you’ve been. Whether your nonprofit’s fundraising and development function is robust and sophisticated or small and nascent, you surely have access to at least some data and insights that will inform your plans moving forward. In our Essential Nonprofit Fundraising Plan Template, we’ve made space for you to fill in information about the fundraising campaigns and activities your organization has engaged in over the last year and evaluate the performance of each one. We’ve also included space to audit each of the following elements:

  • Donation page traffic
  • Web traffic sources
  • Most engaging emails

Feel free to delete any of these sections if they’re not relevant to you, or add more based on the tactics that are core to your fundraising program. 

Next, this section of the Essential Nonprofit Fundraising Plan Template includes instructions on how to conduct donor research in order to gain a better understanding of who is giving to your organization and who you could target for donations in the future. It also includes information on conducting an ecosystem assessment to determine how your fundraising campaigns and messaging could best stand out in comparison to other organizations in your ecosystem that compete with you for donor dollars.

 Finally, we’ve included a page for a SWOT Analysis, where we encourage you to take a high-level look at your nonprofit’s fundraising strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats so you can determine the areas that most need your focus in the year ahead.

Learn more about auditing your fundraising efforts here.

Nonprofit Fundraising Goals & Priorities

Through our work with hundreds of nonprofits, we’ve noticed a common mistake when it comes to setting fundraising goals; most organizations set their fundraising goals in a vacuum. They do not begin with their strategic plan and mission in mind and then set aligned fundraising goals that will drive both forward. As a result, they end up with goals that sound good on paper, but do not make a strategic and thoughtful use of the organization’s time, budget and brainpower. The Goals & Priorities section of the Essential Nonprofit Fundraising Plan Template is designed to change that. First, it will help you come up with fundraising goals that align with your strategic plan. Then, it will help you prioritize between those goals based on the size of your team and fundraising budget.

We’ve noticed a common mistake when it comes to setting fundraising goals; most organizations set their fundraising goals in a vacuum. Click To Tweet

In the Template, you’ll learn to come up with a set of fundraising activities that could support each of your organization’s strategic goals or priorities, as laid out in your organization-wide strategic plan. Then, you’ll learn how to narrow those activities down to the most essential and combine them into goal-oriented statements.

Let’s take a look at an example:

The Marin Humane Society is a No-Kill Shelter in California. They have an organization-wide strategic plan that lays out the following five high-level goals:

Here’s a look at a brainstormed list of ways fundraising can address Marin Humane’s first organizational goal. You can also see what was eliminated due to budget and team constraints or due to the fact that, after brainstorming, an item was identified as “non-essential.” Finally, you can see how the items that remained were summarized into two fundraising goals.

And here’s another example for organizational goal 4. As you can see, in this example, Marin Humane eliminated “nice to haves” and ideas they couldn’t realistically pursue with their current budget. Then, they summarized what remained into two key goals: increase total annual appeal revenue by 25% over the previous year, and acquire contacts for 1,000 potential new donors through Facebook.

After you’ve narrowed down to a few possible fundraising goals for each organizational goal, our Essential Nonprofit Fundraising Plan Template will help you rank what remains in order of priority and eliminate anything that doesn’t fit within the bandwidth of your current resources.

Following a goal and priority-setting process like this one will help you set more realistic and achievable nonprofit fundraising goals and prioritize them so you don’t overwhelm your team or set yourself up for failure. However, even with the right tools, it can sometimes be difficult to set your own, unbiased goals and accurately rank your priorities, especially when you’re intimately involved in the work that will result from them. That’s why at Prosper Strategies, we go deeper than simply working through the worksheets in our Essential Nonprofit Fundraising Plan Template with our clients. We scrutinize every goal they propose and help them determine if it’s actually the right one, and the most important one, for their organization’s overall strategic goals, mission and vision. We also challenge false beliefs about what can be accomplished within the current constraints of our clients’ teams and budgets. Sometimes, this results in scaling back and getting more focused. Other times, it results in thinking bigger and pushing the boundaries to earn more fundraising dollars.

 Keep in mind: Marketing and fundraising goals are not one and the same. Learn more about setting nonprofit fundraising goals here.

Activity Selection

Activity planning might be the most fun and rewarding part of building a fundraising strategy. Most of our clients want to jump right into this part of the fundraising planning process. However, it is absolutely essential to do the work detailed in the earlier parts of the Essential Nonprofit Fundraising Plan Template before you can successfully tackle activity planning. Now that you know what you’re trying to achieve (your goals), you can choose the vehicles to make it happen (your tactics and activities). Inside the template, you’ll find space to brainstorm activities in support of each of the goals that you set earlier. After you’ve done some brainstorming, you’ll narrow your activities down to a defined number based on your organization’s bandwidth.

Then, once you know which tactics and activities you’re going to use to achieve your goals, it’s time to decide exactly what you’ll do with each one. We ask our clients to get as strategic and detailed as possible in this phase. For example, if you choose social media as a tactic for donor acquisition, we’d ask you to do more than simply identify an idea for a campaign. We’d ask you to come up with a concept for content you could use to generate leads, set a budget for Facebook ads, define metrics that would indicate success in this effort, decide who is responsible for what, and determine timing. Inside the Essential Nonprofit Fundraising Plan Template, you’ll find activity planning worksheets that ask six important questions about each of the activites you’ve selected:

  • What will you do with this activity?
  • When will this activity take place?
  • Why is this important?
  • Who will be responsible?
  • Budget; how much do we plan to spend?
  • How does this tie to our organization’s fundraising and strategic goals?

Here’s another example from Marin Humane:

While the Essential Nonprofit Fundraising Plan Template outlines some of the fundraising activities and tactics we’ve found to be most successful for nonprofits, you may have noticed that it doesn’t give you instructions about what each tactic entails or what you should do with it. That is intentional. There are two reasons we kept extensive tactical instructions from this resource. First, fundraising changes quickly. The things we’d recommend today for tactics like direct mail or social media might be drastically different than what we’d recommend next year or even next quarter. Second, activity planning is a highly creative and strategic exercise that can’t be effectively taught within the format of a template. It requires brainstorming, exploration and iterative development. In our work with our clients, activity planning typically takes several weeks and involves much more than simply filling out the worksheets in our Template. It also involves the development of campaign concepts, donor journey maps and more. If you want to go deeper, you can learn more about our fundraising planning process here.

 Learn more about fundraising activities other organizations have found to be successful by reading our fundraising case studies.

Fundraising Calendar 

This is the part of the fundraising planning process where most nonprofits stop short. They make it through their audits, goal setting, and activity planning but they fail to put the tools and systems in place to ensure their plans will actually be seen through. That’s where our Fundraising Calendar comes in. It gives you a space to plan out your fundraising and development activities in fine detail, month-by-month. It also gives you a space to define who is accountable for what. Inside the Essential Nonprofit Fundraising Plan Template, you’ll find a four-quarter fundraising calendar that you can fill in with your own plans. Don’t feel that you have to take action on each activity each month. Rather, stagger your activities in a way that is manageable for your team and aligned with your goals. You’ll notice the fundraising calendar also has a spot to define messaging themes on a quarterly or monthly basis. These themes might relate to your key messages, or they might relate to something more timely like an upcoming event or current news item. The focus you choose should align with your goals, and you should then weave it loosely through all your activities, from your direct mail to your events. Finally, be sure to fill in the final row (how will we know if we’re successful this month?) with details on the measurables you need to hit or the things you need to achieve each month to keep moving your goals forward.

For most nonprofits, the Fundraising Calendar is only one piece of a bigger puzzle that must be completed to ensure that fundraising goals become a reality. We also regularly help our clients with the following:

  • Setting up a project management system, where items on the calendar get broken down into clear tasks and to-dos with owners and due dates;
  • Putting in place systems and processes to keep their team on track with fundraising priorities and ensure everyone is held accountable to what they say they’ll do (see the Progress element of the Nonprofit Impact System);
  • Fundraising implementation, where we serve as an extension of our clients’ development teams and execute on some or even most of the tactics in their fundraising plan on an ongoing, long-term or as-needed basis. This can be a great option for organizations with significant skill and capacity gaps, as well as those that simply want to take their fundraising efforts to the next level.

Nonprofit Fundraising Budget

By the time you get to the budgeting section of the Essential Nonprofit Fundraising Plan Template, you’ll already have done much of the hard work that goes into developing a fundraising budget in the activity planning section. Then, it will just be time to total up all your anticipated costs to determine if you’re spending too much or too little. 

This begs the question: how much should nonprofits spend on fundraising?

The answer depends largely on your revenue model and how much your nonprofit depends on fundraising revenue to sustain its operations.  But here are some general guidelines:

  • Nonprofits that have many other healthy revenue streams should spend between 8 and 10% of their revenue on fundraising
  • Nonprofits that rely on fundraising as one of their significant revenue streams should spend between 10 and 25% of their revenue on fundraising
  • Nonprofits that are solely reliant on fundraising revenue should spend between 25% and 40% of their revenue on fundraising

Of course, take these guidelines with a grain of salt and consider them in your organization’s unique context. Additionally, if your fundraising efforts are producing above average returns, you can absolutely justify spending more.

Nonprofit Fundraising Measurement

The measurement section of your nonprofit fundraising plan is where the rubber meets the road and you determine if all the tactics you’re pursuing and activities you’re engaging in are actually helping you achieve your goals. But don’t worry, this section of the plan doesn’t exist just to pressure you to perform. It exists so that you can learn what’s not working quickly, and stop doing it before it becomes a problem. It also exists to help you identify successes and quickly reallocate your budget and attention to the things that are working best.

Inside the Essential Nonprofit Fundraising Plan Template, you’ll define your approach to fundraising measurement. Some of the goals you set earlier in the planning process might have had clear, measurable targets associated with them. Others probably did not. In this section, you’ll define a measurable target performance indicator for each goal that you can track on either a weekly or monthly basis. Our most successful clients track their target performance indicators weekly and discuss whether they’re on or off target during their weekly, monthly and quarterly meetings.

Let’s get real for a moment here: choosing the right measurable performance indicators is not an easy task. It requires historical data or data from other, similar organizations. It also requires a certain degree of foresight. You need to be able to see how the numbers that indicate your success will shift and change throughout the year as your efforts in different areas expand and contract. Our clients often ask us to set their measurable target performance indicators, and thanks to our deep sector expertise, it’s something we’re quite skilled at. We also recommend that you develop a dashboard to track your measurable target performance indicators. Google Sheets and Geckoboard can both be helpful for this. We also design custom dashboards that get updated in real time for many of our clients using tools like HubSpot, DonorPerfect and Salesforce. We can even go a step further and help you tie your marketing efforts to mission outcomes.

Learn more about measurement and evaluation here.

Remember, your nonprofit fundraising plan should be a living, breathing document.

As your organization changes, it’s only natural for your fundraising goals and plans to change with it.

Ready to get started? Find more guidance, along with more examples and tools you can use to build your plan, by downloading Essential Nonprofit Fundraising Plan Template. And if you need more help with fundraising and development efforts reach out.

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