Annual Fundraising Plan

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Part of a series on
Fundraising Planning
Other Articles
1. Annual Fundraising Plan
2. Cost Effective Fundraising
3. Case Statement
4. External Budget
5. Donor Database
6. Annual Plan Books
7. Annual Plan Case Studies
8. Annual Plan Vendors

An Annual Fundraising Plan contains the all of an organization's fundraising activities in a given year. Also known as the Annual Fund Drive, it enables a fundraising team to see a birdseye view of the year's fundraising programs. The Annual Fund Drive is for the non-profit what an Annual Stewardship Campaign is for a Church.

Sowing and reaping

An annual fundraising plan focuses on three primary activities. Donor acquisition, donor cultivation, and donor reactivation.

1. Donor Acquisition

Every organizations needs new donors. Without new donors, your donor file will slowly dwindle through donor attrition until you decide to get serious about donor acquisition or close your doors forever. The donor acquisition portion focuses on presenting your story, the compelling need that only your organization can meet, to new people. Your acquisition efforts will likely cost more than what it brings in, but that’s ok. You’ll make up the difference when you begin to cultivate those new donors.

2. Donor Cultivation

Once someone has made a donation, they need to be asked to give again. Your annual fund drive will employ a series of different cultivation techniques that will present the need anew to people who have supported you in the past. Your donor cultivation might include direct mail, email, phone calls, events, peer-to-peer fundraising, or other strategies. The main point of these cultivation strategies is to reconnect with your donors and ask them to give again. Good donor cultivation strategies result in strong donor retention, which helps to reduce donor attrition.

3. Donor Reactivation

If someone stops giving to your organization for a period of time (say two years) they become a lapsed donor. Donor reactivation strategies seek to reconnect with lapsed donors and rekindle the spark that made them donate in the first place. You might use a lot of the same techniques as donor cultivation, but your focus will be different.

You will need to acknowledge that they haven’t given in a while, and perhaps it’s a good time to ask ‘why not?’ Asking why donors stopped giving often gives us an opportunity to reconnect them with our mission and invite them to give again. Also, a person might have moved or had a change in financial circumstances that caused them to change their giving patterns. When you discover something like this, you can build a connection by inviting them to participate in other ways. A big thing is to reestablish the relationship with the lapsed donor and invite them to take part in your organization again.

Build your annual fundraising plan.

Raising enough money to keep the organization running is an essential big job, so it’s important that your plan is big enough (or small enough) to fit your organization. This means that you will need to look at what resources you have and decide what strategies you’ll be able to integrate into your plan. Pay close attention to the cost effectiveness of your fundraising strategies. It might sound like a good idea to do a different fundraising event every month. In reality, event fundraising has a much lower return on your time and money than doing direct mail or e-mail fundraising.

Start by looking at your three core audiences: new donors, current donors, and former donors. Do you have a strategy to reach each of these groups? Do you have a way to track their responses? What strategies have worked in the past, and where are opportunities to try something new? Is your list of current donors growing, or is it shrinking?

Build your solicitation calendar

The Annual Fundraising Calendar provides an overview of all of the different styles of fundraising you will be using each month. This is a useful format because it enables you to see opportunities that you might have missed otherwise. Look at the two samples below.

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This plan is a very simple one for an organization that focuses on direct mail fundraising. It separates mailings that are trying to acquire new donors, cultivate existing donors, and reactivate lapsed donors. The organization does fewer acquisition mailings because they tend to cost money rather than make money up front. Note that it includes sending out thank you notes as an ongoing cultivation mailing.

Annual Fund Calendar.png

This plan is for a much larger organization that runs an integrated annual campaign. You see that it uses everything from mass media approaches like radiothons and billboards to personal major gift solicitations. This organization has either multiple fundraising staff or very dedicated volunteers to be able to make all of these different fundraising programs possible.

Each of these plans can be expanded to include a narrative that explains what activities each row refers to and the person responsible for those parts of the plan. For example, your fundraising grid might be followed by language like this:

  • The direct mail acquisition will consist of two mailings to rented lists and focus on our children’s programs. Bill is responsible for writing the letter and researching the list. Mary will handle printing and mailing.
  • The bulletin acquisition campaign will run weekly ads in the bulletin suggesting that parishioners start making their monthly gifts through recurring online gifts. Peter will be responsible for changing the ad to reflect the liturgical season and getting the information to the bulletin printers.

Don’t let the number of activities on this larger plan intimidate you. If you’re a small food pantry at a local church, it’s unlikely that you’ll ever run a billboard campaign. But you might run an ad in your church bulletin, and you’ll definitely want to send thank you notes. Food drives could be an annual or even a monthly occurrence. The main thing is to make a plan that fits your needs and your resources. A plan that’s too big will sit on a shelf and collect dust. A plan that’s just right will stretch you just enough to help you grow, but still be manageable.

Annual Fundraising Duties and Objectives

Accountability is important, especially in larger organizations. You can set expectations with your staff and track their performance with the following type of plan. It breaks down your fundraising plan by fundraising type, staff responsibility, and funding targets.

Simple Fundraising Plan.png

This type of plan allows you to assign activities and goals to the fundraising staff who are responsible. You see that this plan doesn’t track every activity throughout the year. Instead, it gives you an overview of the different kinds of fundraising that will be taking place with specific information about each program. The different colors identify different categories of donors and sub-colors indicate when more than one type of approach will be used.

Click to download this Simple Annual Fundraising Plan in Excel format.

This simple fundraising plan can be adapted to keep your fundraising programs organized.This simple fundraising plan can be adapted to keep your fundraising programs organized. This Simple Fundraising Plan includes goals like financial and soft targets, as well as timing and key responsibilities. So, for instance, you’ll be soliciting individual gifts through several different programs that include a board solicitation, direct mail, major gifts, online giving, etc. All the gifts come from individuals, but are cultivated in different ways.

Annual Deadline Calendar

Organizing your fundraising a year round job if you’re doing it right, and good events take 9-12 months to plan. It can be helpful to have a rolling calendar of your major fundraising pushes. Put the major deadlines that require the work of more than one of the staff or volunteers in the organization.

This following example plan shows the monthly preparations needed for a parish stewardship renewal campaign. You can see that it gives you deadlines for major accomplishments in order to be ready for the actual stewardship appeal at the end of the year. Having a calendar in this format can help you to stay on track with your activities so that you are able to handle any complications or problems (which WILL happen) peacefully.

  • March 15th – Meet with stewardship team – pick theme
  • March – May – Data analysis and materials preparation
  • July 10th – Final Material and Data finalized
  • August 1 – Stewardship brochure mailed to Parishioners
  • August 7 – Ministry Fair
  • August 14 – Testimony Sunday
  • August 21 – Commitment Sunday
  • August 28 – Follow up letter sent
  • September 5 – Final ask mailed
  • September 20 – Stewardship totals announce – Parish Celebration
  • September 28 – Wrap up meeting, recommendation for next year

You can also create an annual schedule for each one of your major events/fundraising pushes that stands alone so staff and volunteers working on the program don’t get confused by seeing deadlines for other fundraising programs. This kind of schedule of deadlines is invaluable for coordinating the activities of volunteers.

Accountability is the key!

Each of these three types of Annual Fundraising plans have their own strengths and provide a certain kind of valuable information. You should be able to plan your year and then look back at the end of each month and see that you have accomplished what you have planned. If you have not done what you were supposed to do, your monthly accountability check-in will give you an opportunity to change plans or make adjustments.