by Joanne Tica
As a successful fundraising consultant, I can tell you that there is not a “right way” or a “wrong way” to create a fundraising strategy, especially in the current virtual professional environment. Every organization is unique and has different opportunities to generate income for its programs and operations. If an organization has been successful with a given strategy, then it should build on that success. At the same time, it should begin learning and investing in new strategies that can create more opportunity for the organization.
Fundraising is a necessity for most nonprofit organizations. When you fundraise without a strategic plan in place, your efforts might help you meet your basic expenses but probably won’t help you reach your organizational goals. If your organization fundraises in a haphazard way, it risks burning out its regular donors, its committed volunteers and its employees on the road to meeting the organization’s financial needs. Organizational fundraising should be a shared experience that energizes the team, including the donors, rather than burns out the individuals involved in the process. How do you make sure that the process is productive for everyone involved?
It all starts with a plan. The plan can be as simple as an annual event forecast that fits into the organization’s overall business plan. If your organization has larger budget needs, than you can create fundraising strategies that are more distinct and targeted than simply asking for support from individual donors.
Why Does Your Organization Need a Fundraising Plan?
The purpose of a creating a fundraising plan is:
- To continue the organization’s current work
- To expand its services into new areas, if it has the capacity to do so
- To reduce risk associated with single or limited sources of income
- To build up cash reserves so that program delivery isn’t interrupted due to ebbs and flows in the economy
Without understanding your organization’s overall needs, it’s difficult to create a fundraising plan to align programs and activities with the monies available so that you can deliver on your commitments to your stakeholders for a consistent period of time. Your fundraising plan should provide clear instructions for how you will raise the money that the organization needs to operate over a twelve-month period. The plan should be detailed enough that it can be easily replicated by anyone coming into the organization, not just by the people who created it.
Developing your Fundraising Plan
Developing a fundraising plan takes time. It requires commitment from everyone in the organization. All the effort involved is worthwhile, though, because once a plan is in place, your team saves lots of wasted time and effort and your chances of achieving fundraising success will increase.
Here are some tips to get started thinking about your organization’s fundraising plan.
- Start building your plan on what has worked for your organization. The best fundraising strategies will build on the existing strengths, skills and resources that you have within the organization. You should also consider what has not worked well for you in the past. Try to understand why your successful strategies have worked well for you and why your failed strategies didn’t bring the results you wanted.
- Build, rather than grow. Growth for growth’s sake can be detrimental to an organization, especially in current times. Having more money does not mean that you have the capacity to deliver more to your stakeholders. Consider building a fundraising strategy that holistically looks at what you can deliver with your existing team first, before you look at expanding your programs. Building is intentional and it allows you to target your programs, knowing that you can deliver what you promise.
- Understand that there are no quick wins. New programs and strategies take time to build, even with experienced leadership in place. Fundraising can be a long-term investment. That’s why it’s important to have multiple strategies in place to keep an organization financially stable.
- Fundraising is a team effort. The activities of fundraising are not limited to the people with fundraising in their job title. Everyone in the organization, from leadership to volunteers, should understand the goals of each program and how the program is connected to the organization’s overall success. Your volunteers are sometimes the only contact that others have with your organization. If volunteers can’t effectively communicate your objectives to the people they meet, then your chances for monetary success are minimized.
Developing a comprehensive fundraising plan is essential to the health of a nonprofit organization, even within the limitations imposed by a fully virtual environment. The existence of a solid plan allows you to take a long-term view of the work of the organization and increase your chances for fundraising success.
Joanne Tica is the managing director of Certified Impact LLC. She specializes in helping business and nonprofit leaders build capacity in organizations through the implementation of knowledge management systems. Joanne trains facilitators to operate mastermind programming for women business leaders through the Minerva League brand and specializes in the incorporation of micro-learning systems as an aid to training. To reach out to Joanne directly, please email firstname.lastname@example.org