As all nonprofits know, putting together a fundraising strategy is no easy feat. It takes time, effort, and a lot of thought.
While “fundraising strategy” can be a broad term that refers to a number of nonprofit efforts, what we’re referring to here is a nonprofit’s generalized, overarching plan for fundraising.
It usually accounts for all fundraising activity that takes place over a 3-5 year period of time.
Fundraising strategies could not be more important for nonprofits. They allow organizations to prioritize their various projects, causes, and efforts and allocate their resources accordingly.
When making a fundraising strategy, your organization will have many factors to consider. Yet having a well-thought-out and definitive fundraising plan in place is well worth it. It will literally pay off for your organization.
To help you start planning, we’ve listed out the 8 major factors to consider when putting together a fundraising strategy.
- A budget
- Goals and targets
- The case for support
- Methods and timeline
- Staff and volunteers
- Digital tools
- The board buy-in
In this article, we’ll walk through each to get you on your way to fundraising success!
Unfortunately, it’s a truth of life that you have to spend money to make money.
Although your organization is raising money for a good cause, this rule still applies to fundraising.
To put together a fundraising strategy, you first need to know how much money your organization has to work with.
Since your fundraising strategy will likely account for multiple years’ worth of projects and efforts, determining a budget will be a little tricky.
Your budget will depend somewhat on how much you can raise throughout the span of time covered by your fundraising strategy, so it can be difficult to project exactly how much you’ll have to work with, especially further down the timeline.
There’s one rule of thumb: always underestimate how much you think you’ll be able to spend (leaving a little room for unexpected setbacks, of course).
It’s better to err on the conservative side with your budget. If it turns out you have more to spend on your strategy, you can always figure out where to allocate those resources later on.
You wouldn’t be planning out a fundraising strategy if your organization weren’t working toward something.
It’s important to determine exactly what goal and targets you’re working toward from the beginning, so you can plan out your methods in the way that will be most conducive to achieving your fundraising goals.
Let’s define exactly what’s meant by goal and targets.
The goal refers to the ultimate fundraising goal you want to achieve by the end of your campaign.
While it can be tempting to set multiple goals to make the most out of the resources you’re putting into your fundraising strategy, you should stick to only one clear, measurable, and attainable goal.
Setting only one goal will help your campaign stay focused, which will give you the best chance of success.
All of the efforts and methods you use throughout your fundraising strategy should be helping you reach this goal in some way, even if indirectly.
Targets are the smaller goals you set throughout your campaign.
They’ll help you stay on track and check your progress throughout the time span of your fundraising strategy.
The progress you make by reaching your targets should accumulate to help you reach your campaign goal.
Although your targets will be smaller in scale, they should be equally as determinable and realistic as your goal.
When you schedule your targets will depend on your strategy timeline. Just make sure to set clear deadlines for reaching each one.
If you find you can’t achieve a target, it might be a sign that you need to adjust your goal or your methods.
Setting a goal and targets will focus your fundraising strategy and help it stay on track, so your organization can make progress toward furthering your cause.
Now that you have your goals and target, it’s time to determine which methods you’re going to implement in order to reach those milestones.
Fundraising strategies can be composed of any number of methods, including but certainly not limited to:
- Annual giving campaigns
- Capital campaigns
- Smaller, targeted fundraising campaigns
- Digital fundraising campaigns (online fundraising)
- Peer-to-peer campaigns
- Advocacy campaigns
- Fundraising events
- Donor outreach and stewardship
Each method you use throughout the span of your campaign should help you make progress toward reaching your goal. You should implement a variety of methods to hit on as many of your donors’ interests and preferences as possible.
Additionally, keep in mind that, although your fundraising strategy should be primarily about fundraising, it’s also important to focus on donor stewardship.
Building deeper relationships with your supporters and making a concerted effort to maintain those relationships will establish a more loyal and valuable donor base. While it takes time and resources to build these relationships, they should help you see better fundraising results in the long run.
Once you’ve decided on your methods, it’s time to make a tentative timeline for when you’ll implement each one. This will help you build a marketing plan and ensure you have the resources to allocate to each effort of your strategy.
As mentioned before, most strategies span over a 3-5 year period.
This should give your organization ample time to make progress. At the same time, it doesn’t account for so far in advance that you can’t adjust your methods to accommodate for new developments in the ever-changing fundraising landscape.
Your fundraising methods will get you to your targets and, eventually, your fundraising strategy goal. Plan them out in advance by creating a timeline.
Bonus: Need some unique fundraising ideas? Check out a thorough resource from Double the Donation here.
Although you and your staff know exactly why your organization is worth supporting, it’s probably not as clear to those outside of your organization.
Getting others to support your cause takes some hard work and convincing.
After all, as nice as it would be, people aren’t just going to throw money at your organization. Before someone agrees to support you, they need to have a good reason for doing it.
That’s where the case for support comes in. It lets your prospects know exactly why your organization and cause are worth supporting.
Before you get further into your fundraising strategy planning, you should draft a case for support that includes:
- The problem you’re trying to solve (in other words, why your organization exists in the first place!).
- Your organization’s solution (in other words, what exactly it is you’re doing to alleviate the problem).
- More generally, how your solution can make a difference.
- More specifically, who your organization will benefit and how they’ll benefit.
- What might happen if you don’t succeed (in other words, how the problem could worsen without your help).
- What sets your organization apart and makes it the most qualified for solving the problem.
With a case for support at hand, it will be much easier to articulate your mission to outside prospects. It will also ensure that everyone within your organization is getting the same message across.
When prospects have a clear idea of why your cause is worth supporting, they’ll be much more likely to contribute to your cause.
You’ll never make it to your fundraising goal without the help of your donors!
In order to reach your goal, you’ll have to determine who your prospects are and how their various contributions will add up to get you to that goal.
One way to do this is by calculating the arithmetic of fundraising.
The arithmetic of fundraising is a mathematical formula that helps nonprofits determine how many gifts they need to reach their goal and at what amount these gifts must be.
The formula states:
- Major gifts (the top 10% in quality) will make up about 60% of the funds needed to reach the fundraising strategy goal.
- Mid-sized gifts (the next 20% in quality) will produce about 15-25% of the funds needed.
- The smallest gifts (the remaining 70%) will make up the rest of the fundraising goal, the additional 15-25% of funds needed.
While it can be difficult to get an exact number with this formula, it will at least give your organization a good idea of the proportion of gifts you’ll need.
Once you have a better idea of how your fundraising goal will be comprised, it’s time to turn to your nonprofit CRM.
Obviously, you’ll definitely want to scope out the prospects who have the potential to donate major gifts, but it’s also helpful to focus on donor retention.
While they won’t be able to give as much up front as a major gift donor would, recurring givers generally give about twice as much as major donors during their time supporting the organization. As such, you should definitely give retention a prominent place in your fundraising strategy.
The last step is to determine how you’re going to cultivate these prospects. With which methods will you target each to help you reach your goal?
Analyze your prospects to figure out how their contributions will help you achieve your fundraising goal. Then, create a plan for reaching each with the methods you’ve devised.
Of course, to put together a successful fundraising strategy, you’ll also need the help of many hands.
You should determine how many staff members and volunteers you might need to ensure that all efforts of your strategy are covered.
Think of all of the methods you’ll be using. Which staff members and volunteers are necessary to pull off these methods?
You’ll definitely need someone in charge of overseeing the campaign, but here are some other key players your organization might need some or all of the following:
- Development associates
- Directors of annual giving
- Major gift officers
- Special event coordinators
- Volunteers at fundraising events
- Membership coordinators
- A marketing team
Of course, since all nonprofit efforts are in some way concerned with fundraising, all of your staff members will likely play a role in your strategy efforts at some point. However, it’s still good to think about how everyone will factor in to make sure you’re not overlooking someone important.
Make sure you have enough manpower from the beginning, so that you’ll have enough hands to help you throughout every step of your fundraising strategy.
There is a wider range of technology available to nonprofits now than ever before.
While it’s certainly possible to fundraise without digital tools, in order to make the most out of your fundraising campaign, you’ll definitely want to recruit the help of some fundraising software.
Fundraising software comes in many shapes and sizes, but all types of platforms have one thing in common: they were built to help nonprofits make fundraising smarter and easier.
To be more specific, fundraising software houses all data sources in one place to give nonprofits the deepest insights into their donors and fundraising efforts. Organizations can then use these insights to keep improving their fundraising strategies.
Some major types of fundraising software include:
- Donor management or nonprofit CRM
- Online fundraising
- Event planning
- Online advocacy
- Email marketing
- Volunteer management
- Member management
- Grant management
- Mobile fundraising
- Comprehensive or all-in-one fundraising
- And more!
To determine which type might be right for you, think about the methods you’re using throughout your strategy. For example, if one of your main focuses is to increase supporter advocacy actions, you probably want the help of online advocacy software.
There are so many different types of platforms out there that you’re sure to find one that will assist you in your efforts and bring your fundraising to the next level!
Seeing as your board of members are the ones who manage the finances, you’re not going to get very far if they don’t approve your fundraising strategy.
Once you’ve gone through all of the other considerations listed here and have a concrete plan in place, it’s time to pitch your strategy to the board.
While pitching to the board might seem like a hassle, it’s actually an advantage. Your board members are there to help you determine whether or not your plans are realistically sustainable for the organization before you spend the time and money on executing them.
So, what’s the best strategy for pitching to the board? Here are some tips:
- Outline the benefits. Like you, your board wants your organization to be the best it can be. How will your fundraising strategy further your organization’s cause?
- Be upfront about costs. Your board holds the purse strings, and they’re going to ask about costs. Be as transparent as possible. Use your budget to illustrate why you need the financial resources and exactly where you’re going to allocate them.
- Anticipate the questions. Fundraising strategies are complicated, and your board members aren’t the ones who are on the ground fundraising for your organization on a regular basis. As such, they’re bound to have questions. Make sure you have the answers to these questions by anticipating anything your board might ask in advance.
For all of these tips and more, check out Salsa’s tips for making the perfect pitch.
Although selling your strategy to the board will take some effort, it won’t be impossible. If you can show your board how your strategy will further the aims of your organization, they’re sure to say yes.
While putting together a fundraising strategy requires a lot of planning and thought, it will be much easier when you start with the right considerations in mind.
If you’ve adequately planned out all of the factors listed here, there’s no reason why your strategy shouldn’t be a success!