How to Create a Stellar Fundraising Plan

June 4, 2019
5 minutes

If you can't remember the last time you revisited your fundraising plan, it may be time for a makeover or time for you to hit that reset button completely (gasp!). Putting a new fundraising plan in place can be daunting, but it means that you’ll have an improved roadmap to meet your goals, which we’re guessing is something you want to do.

Let’s talk about how you can create a stellar new fundraising plan to bring in the big bucks and fuel your nonprofit's mission!

Know your numbers from last year

One of the best places to start when you want to develop a new fundraising plan is to look at your numbers from the year before. Yes, that means you need to face the music. The good, the bad, and the ugly. But you got this, fundraiser.

When you finally work up the nerve to face the music, here are some key numbers to look up:

  • Total amount raised
  • Total number of donors
  • Number of new donors
  • Donor retention rate
  • The amount raised from major gifts, annual giving, and planned giving
  • The amount raised per channel, such as email, direct mail, events, and so on

Use your donor CRM to create reports based on the criteria above, then take some time to review these numbers and see how they stack up to your goals and expectations from last year. Be sure to log any insights you harvest from your data.

Declare your new goal

The next and most crucial step in developing your fundraising plan is to set your goal. The amount of money you want to raise could be tied to your organization’s budget, which can take the guesswork out of picking your goal. Or you can determine your goal based on last year's fundraising number with a goal to increase the amount by a certain percentage.

We found that the most effective goals are a combination of the two. If your fundraising goal can both offset your organizations budget while exceeding previous year's goals, you've got yourself a win-win. And we know you've heard this a million times, but no matter what, make sure your goal is S.M.A.R.T. ( Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-based). Some advice is worth repeating because it's tried, and most importantly, true.

In addition to your monetary goal, you may also want to set other “mini” goals that can indicate growth or positive developments in your fundraising program. Increased donor retention, anyone?

Illustrated hand writing out to-do list. Art by Sophie Cunningham

Know your case for support

You know your fundraising work is helping to fund awesome. Let’s make sure everyone else knows it, too. That’s why you need a case for support, also known as a case statement. This can be a formal or informal document that details why giving to your nonprofit makes a difference and why someone should donate.

An effective case for support:

  • Creates an emotional connection through storytelling
  • Clearly outlines your nonprofit's history, mission, and vision
  • Summarizes your organization's impact and accomplishments
  • Outlines your organization's current financial needs 
  • Explains why your potential donors should care
  • Closes with a compelling call to action

Now is the perfect time to make sure your case for support is up to snuff. Dust it off, update it, and use it.

Map out the strategies and tactics

With your goal in mind, you are ready to dive into the details of how you’ll achieve this goal. To make your fundraising plan super useful for you and your team, you need to outline the strategies and tactics you’ll use to reach your goal.

List out all the things you’ll do to raise money, including:

  • Major gifts appeals
  • Fundraising and donor cultivation events
  • Direct mail fundraising
  • Email campaigns
  • Text engagement
  • Peer-to-peer fundraising

After you’ve written out your list, go through each tactic and write out a step-by-step project plan or create a list of milestones for each tactic. Remember, this part of the fundraising plan is where the rubber meets the road. Do the work now because your future self will thank you!

Put it on the calendar

You’ve made your plan and now you’re excited and fired up! Don't let your plan become a pipe dream—put it on your calendar. Start by putting key dates on your calendar, such as campaign or appeal dates or key stewardship activities. If putting every last detail on the calendar feels too overwhelming, try using a project management system for your fundraising plan such as Trello or Asana.


Planning is hard work so celebrate this achievement, fundraiser! Take yourself out for a coffee or even just take a break. You’ve earned it.

Fundraising doesn’t have to be overwhelming or chaotic. With a fundraising plan in place you’ll have clarity and confidence to conquer to years to come, and maybe even put a little fun back in fundraising.

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