By Sarah B Lange under Uncategorized on December 22, 2023

Putting Together Your Annual Fundraising Plan

You can watch the full episode on YouTube or listen to Spotify.

Hello everyone, I'm Sarah Lange, and I'm here to spark the philanthropy revolution. The word philanthropy means love of mankind. My show is all about the ways we can open our doors and hearts so we can do more good. 

Hey, everybody, Sarah Lange here. Thanks for joining me for my last 2023 live stream of the philanthropy revolution. I can't believe 2023 is nearly over. I'm still wondering where my summer went, so that's where I'm at. I know you guys are so busy this time of year. We actually are equally busy, but probably not as frantic as those of you who are trying to, you know, get Christmas together for the people you serve. But anyway, glad to see you.

I thought today would be a great opportunity to talk about your annual fundraising plan. So this plan is going to help keep you on track all year long. It helps you use your time and resources effectively and fend off efforts to get you to do more work. So I used to not so jokingly refer to my annual plan as my “magic shield” I'd say, “well, we've already agreed to this plan.” So if you want me to add that, what are we taking off? So I literally would just come back at my bosses and say, “well, this is what we agreed to.” And we agree that I already have a full time job, so what's coming off the plan, Stan? Anyway, it usually makes them rethink what the level of importance of what it is they're asking you to do.

The first thing I want to say about this plan is it should be strategically linked to your other plans. So your strategic plan, your long term financial plans, all those things should inform your annual fundraising plan. Now, if you don't have either one of those plans, so strategic plan or financial, long term financial plan, it's really, really important to get those things done, because especially in today's environment, you know, we've got one point five million nonprofits and you want to be able to kind of rise above the noise by showing people that you have a vision and a roadmap to get there.

And that really excites people. If you say, like, “here's our beautiful vision for the world. And here's how we're moving in that direction.” It's inspiring to people. It's as aspirational for people. So it's a really great way to get people excited about the work you're doing in the future that you're building. So make sure that you have a strategic plan, if not. So I used to work at an organization where the two co-directors actually said strategic planning is a waste of time. So being who I am, I had my department do a strategic plan. So we talked about what did we want to accomplish as a department over the next three years? And then we like reverse engineered from there and said, “OK, this is where we want to be in three years. Here's what happens in year three. Here's what happens in year two. Here's what happens in year one.” And then we drilled down and created specific work plans for everybody based on that. And we would literally bring them to our weekly staff meeting and we'd whip out our plan and we'd report from our strategic plan. And everyone else in the whole company was like, “well, how come they have strategic plans? And we don't have strategic plan.”, “How come they get one of these?” And I'm like, “well, because I did this for my department”, and like, “oh, could you do this for my department?” I'm like, “yeah, absolutely. I could do strategic planning for your department.” So next thing you know, we've got a bunch of departments in the organization that has strategic plans. And the directors just kind of had to like call it the white flag and give it up and do an organizational strategic plan. So it was kind of hilarious. But that's just how I roll. So, yeah, you definitely want to change your plan if you don't have one. And there's a lot of resistance around doing strategic planning. You can still do it for the department in which you work. So think about that.

What I find often is that a lot of nonprofits do not have an annual excuse me, I think I'm going to sneeze. OK, sorry about that. So what I find is that a lot of nonprofits don't have these strategic annual fund development plans, but it really, really, really is helpful in terms of keeping you on track and working towards your goal. So, Chris, I'm going to ask you to share the screen so we can show everybody the template that I use with my clients. Awesome. Thank you. It might be a little hard to read. Is there any way we can make that bigger, Chris? No. OK, so bear with me. I'm going to read. And if you want a copy of this, you can just shoot me an email at [email protected]. And Chris can pop that up in the chat for us.

So at the top, the first section says 20 “blank”, “blank” financial goals. So obviously, like if you're in 24, you do maybe fy 2024- 2025, depending on when your fiscal year ends. That's you want to put the fiscal year date at the top. And then it says “we need to raise. Oh, my goodness. Sorry. X number of revenues in this given year.” So you need to know what your fundraising goal is. Then underneath that, it says “source of funds”. So you're going to list each item under the appropriate section, including the amount you anticipate to be awarded. So the first section is private and corporate grants. And I would encourage you to list every single grant that you've gotten and how much you got so that you can see how many grants you're going to have to produce and what the anticipated revenue is from those.

The next section. Oh, goodness. Sorry. It's a lot of I kicked up a lot of dust in my house this morning and it's tickling my nose. The next section is government contracts. Those can be local, state or federal. And again, you want to list each one of those individually and the amount that they're worth. And then in the individual section, there's a number of strategies that you may or may not be using. So the first one is bequest and estate planning gifts. Obviously, you don't know when people are going to pass away, but people usually let you know how much they're going to leave you or they'll say, “I'll give you a percentage of my in my will.” And that's assuming they've even told you, but guesstimate how much you might receive in the next year in estate or planning gifts.

Then you want to list your major donors and how much each one of those are going to give you or you hope they're going to give you. And then your monthly donor program. I'm assuming you have one, right? If not, 2024 is a great year to start one. And if you want some advice on how to get that going, I just drop me an email and we'll get in touch and hop on a Zoom call. 

And then there's annual appeal letters. So I suggest sending two to four a year. Sometimes people think you're asking too much, but there are people who want to give to your cause more than once a year or so doesn't hurt to ask. And then obviously another strategy you're going to want to look at and a lot of nonprofits use are events. So you're going to list your events and how much they bring in. Now on events, they are your lowest return on investment in terms of a fundraising strategy. So I really use them as friend raisers and I make sure that the entire board, the entire staff is working the room. So everybody in that room should get a personal touch from somebody from your organization. So you don't want your board and your staff standing around in clusters talking to each other because that's not helping further the mission. It's not helping bring those people who are at your event into deeper relationship with your organization. So don't lose the opportunity to really connect with people and make sure that everybody feels welcome and they know how much that their presence and participation is appreciated.

You also want to look at organizations, businesses, churches, any religious groups, civic groups that give you money. You want to, again, list those out and you could cluster them. You don't have to say like “Knights of Columbus and Rotary.” You could just say civic organizations like $8,000.

Then you want to list your board giving. Now, hopefully 100% of your board is making a gift that demonstrates their capacity, financial capacity. And that your organization is in the top three charities to which they give, because if you're not in the top three charities that they support, why are they on your board? Let's not fill our board with dead wood. Let's fill our boards with people who really actually care deeply about what it is we're doing in the world and share our vision for the world we're trying to build. So make sure your board is giving and that it's not just some nominal gift. But that it's a gift that reflects their capacity.

And then if there's any other strategies that you use, list those out and how much money. So now you've got all the different sources of funds listed, including the amounts that you anticipate. And that's going to be very clear very quickly whether you're going to meet your financial goal. I remember when I was on maternity leave, they did the budget for the next year. And I came back. They had increased the budget by $125,000, which may not sound like a lot. But when you've already tapped out pretty much every single funding source in the area, that's a lot of extra money to just magic out of thin air. So I went back to the board and I said, “I love that you guys are reaching for the stars. But what are you going to do to bring in this $125,000?” Because I'm already maxed out raising this amount. You've just added $125,000. So I'm already going to every single foundation, every single business. Like we've got a membership campaign. We've got a monthly giving program. Like I had done everything that I could possibly do. And so all of a sudden they were like, “oh, you can't just come up with $125,000.” I'm like, “I would be happy to, but I need some direction from you about where that's going to come from.” So anyway, don't let them do that to you. And if you're listening to this and you're a board member, don't do that to your staff. We have high enough turnover in the fundraising world as it is. And this is one of the reasons because people do that sort of stuff to us.

One of the things we do is we create a grants calendar to accompany this document so that we know exactly which grant is due when. We know like how much we should ask for. We know like how much we should ask for. We know if there's a report due. So all of that is in an Excel spreadsheet or for most of our clients, we have it on a Google spreadsheet in a folder for them.

So that's section one. And in section two, we outline the strategic goals. Now, these are goals that are going to foster fundraising, but may or may not increase your bottom line. So, for example, the one I use in the template is from a client. We did this a few years ago. So the board of directors will achieve 100% giving and will collectively contribute $10,000 during FY23. So this was we did this plan in 22. Each board member is expected to make Agency X a philanthropic priority and make an annual gift that reflects that priority. Board members need to make their gift by 12/31 each year. So we're being very, very clear that we expect every single board member to give that they are going to contribute a total of $10,000 and by a certain date. So it's very, very specific, but it's not necessarily your fundraising goal. It's a fundraising goal they have to fulfill. So it's really important to help them understand how to reach that goal. And, you know, just because somebody is on your board doesn't and doesn't mean they have to be a wealthy person. So, for example, I used to be on the Boston University School of Social Work Alumni Council. I was on the council for 10 years. I was eventually the president and we had 100% board giving policy. And we always wanted to be the first school in the university system to reach 100% because that's how we got street cred in the university. We were social workers and we didn't have a lot of money, but dammit, we were going to be first to reach 100%. So one time we were at our fall board meeting and we were like one donation away from reaching 100%. So I went to the person during one of the breaks and I said, “hey, you know, I'm just wondering if you're planning to give a gift while you're here this weekend.” And she's like, “oh, you know, things are really tight.” And I said, “well, a gift of any size will get us to the 100%.” So she pulls out her wallet. She's like, “I have $5.” I'm like, “I'll take it.” So that year her gift was $5. But the important thing was we reached 100% giving. So, you know, again, you want it to be a gift that meets their capacity and is reflective of their capacity. And in that moment on that day, that reflected her capacity.

Then we have the next strategy, which is the board will participate. We're going to participate in two thank-a-thons. One is going to be held in July to follow up on the spring appeal. And the second one is going to be held in the fall to follow the fall appeal. And the fall thank-a-thon is going to be held on Giving Tuesday. So with this client, we didn't ask for money on Giving Tuesday. We used Giving Tuesday as a day to give gratitude to our donors. And we still ended up raising a bunch of money anyway, which was always fun. But our board would get together and everybody would have their call sheet and a script. And obviously not many people picked up the phone, but it didn't matter because we all left messages. And people would actually hop online and make a donation, even though we didn't ask for money, we were just, “hey, this is so-and-so. I'm a board member at this organization. I just want to tell you how much we appreciate you today… We're giving gratitudes, Giving Tuesday. And we just want to let you know how important you are to the cause.” And people would hop online and give. So it was awesome. But that was one of our strategic goals was to do two thank-a-thons a year.

Then another strategic goal was to have board members sign the conflict of interest statement at the January 12th board meeting and at subsequent meetings until all board members have signed one. So we had brought a conflict of interest statement into the world of the board. They we collectively approved it. And then we had to have them all sign it. So that was an initiative we wanted to get done. We will develop a monthly donor club by 12/31. So that was another goal we wanted to achieve was establish a monthly giving club. The final goal in this section is that by the end of 20XX, Agency X will purchase a fundraising database and enter all donor information. This will allow Agency X to collect, analyze, and segment donor data. Now, I have to say that these guys were using an Excel spreadsheet. They had 6,800 entries on it. And it was a nightmare. I love this organization dearly. They have been with me for a long time. And I have deep respect for the work they do. But they were trying to operate out of an Excel spreadsheet. And you just can't do that when you've got 6,800 entries. Every time we tried to send out an appeal, it was just the seventh circle of hell. It was terrible. So anyway, finally, we got into a database. And now it's so much easier to get it done. So those were some of our strategic goals.

In the third section, you want to talk about your direct mail goals. So this is your appeal. So we put together a spring appeal and a fall appeal. So under that, we had send out letter to existing and lapsed donors by June 2nd. Send one version of the letter to existing donors and one to lapsed donors. Be sure to ask people to move up the giving ladder. So if somebody's been giving you $25, you really want to kind of nudge them up to $35 or $50. So you really want to move them up the giving ladder. And generally, people don't move up the giving ladder unless we ask them so you always want to ask folks to give more than they've already given. This year, you know, one of the things you might want to focus on is retention because it's just a dumpster fire out there for a lot of people. So I'm assuming most of you have your letter out there in the universe. But during tough economic times, sometimes you just want to focus on retention. And if you didn't focus on that now and things continue to be wonky in the spring, you could do it then. Send a special letter to the top and most loyal donors introducing the monthly giving program, right? So we wanted to let our most loyal donors and our top donors know that they could be in this leadership circle and donate on a monthly basis. We wanted to make sure that the giving amounts listed on the envelope and on the donations page were correct and that the second gift listed was the ideal gift amount. So most people. Check. This is a psychological thing. Most people check the second one in because they don't want to be seen as stingy. So if you want people to give $75, that has to be the second one in the list. So you want to make sure that your ideal gift is listed second, whether it's on your envelope or your donations page. But make sure that they're both the same amount. Then we created a schedule of emails and Facebook posts for two weeks following the mail drop. So we created a drip campaign. And then we scheduled a thank-a-thon for the week after the annual food drive.

The second appeal was going to go out in the fall. We wanted to send out the letter by November 6, again, sending one version to existing donors, one version to lapsed donors, and again, asking people to move up the giving ladder. Now, what we did before all of this happened was we actually sent out a donor survey in January. So we wanted to let people know how much we had raised during the holiday giving season where things were at in terms of changes at the organization. But we also asked them to answer very quick five-question survey. And then we used that information from our donors to shape our appeals. And so we sent one version to existing donor and one version of the survey to lapsed donors. And we got some really interesting feedback. So you might want to think about doing that early in the year with your donors. So again, we double checked to make sure the donation page and envelope amounts matched up. We created that schedule of weekly emails and Facebook posts for 2 weeks. Again, that drip campaign, and we scheduled our thank-a-thon for giving Tuesday.

Now, when we did that, we gave our board donor donor name, the phone number, what their last gift was, and what their total giving was so that they were armed with that information. So you want to make sure that you do that. And we also gave them a script. Not that they used it, but they felt so much better having one.

Then in the fourth section, you want to create or detail what you're doing in your special event. Now for this organization, we actually developed a signature event. And it was a huge hit. Tickets sold out in three days. And we like really hit the mark with the event. And we raised quite a bit of money. So I actually have an entire ebook on planning special events that work. So if you want that, drop me an email and we'll get it out to you.

So in the fifth section of your annual fund development plan, you want to detail cultivation outreach strategies and events. So for example, we were going to use the annual meeting in May as a touch point for folks in the community. So we reached out to all the top donors. And that included folks who may not be giving at a very high level, but are giving consistently. And personally invited them to the event. And some of them actually came and it was a really lovely event. It was really nice to have them there. And so it was just a really, again, just making that connection and building the relationships and deepening them. Then we were going to have an open house in October. So we pulled that together as an outreach event. And we issued invitations. We had refreshments. And then we actually had. So this is a program. It's a residential program. And we had the residents take folks on tour. So that was really fun. So any events that you're going to do that are focused on outreach, definitely list them.

Then in section six, you want to create a communications calendar. So again, I have a sample I can send you. It's really important to think out your communications the year ahead. Make sure that your social media and your communications are supporting your fundraising. Sometimes I see organizations where the folks in social media get into arguments with the folks at fundraising about what the purpose is. And honestly, the whole purpose of social media is to let the community know about the great work that you're doing so that they can be supporters. Maybe that's going to be as a volunteer. Maybe that's going to be as a board member. Maybe that's going to be at your next event. But social media is really a way to get the word out about the amazing magical stuff that happens at your organization every day. So again, you want to have a robust communications calendar. I think there's a push or pressure for us to be on every single media channel there is. Pick one or two. Figure out where your folks are. This is what you can ask them in your donor survey, right? Which social media channels do you use most frequently? And then use those. Don't try to be on every single channel. Because you're going to make yourself crazy. And you're. And also you have to figure out if your donors are using a particular channel. Obviously that's where you want to show up. So. Have a robust communications program, but also don't like crucify yourself with it.

Then finally, we use all the information from the other sections of this plan to create a master organization wide calendar. And this helps do two things. First of all, it can help you make plans for other types of initiatives when you're not in the middle of an event planning season. It also helps people see that there are certain times of year when they shouldn't bother you. So again. Posting this calendar organization wide makes everybody aware in the organization about how much work you're doing  and when to come to you and when not to. 

That is my overview of the template. I use this every year. I love doing it with all of our clients right now. For those that have fiscal year start July 1, we're in the middle of evaluating the plan and seeing where we're at. And if we need to adjust any of our goals. For those that have fiscal years that start January 1, we are finalizing the plans and getting those calendars put together. So it's a really handy tool on top of your goals. And it will stop people from dropping a whole new boatload of work on you  in Q1 or Q2.

So if you have any questions or comments, let me know. Drop them in the chat. If not, thank you for joining me. Really, really appreciate it. Again, we can send out the annual fund development template. We can send out the communications template. I have an ebook on special events. So we're happy to share those resources with you. So just drop me an email. At [email protected]. There in the corner of the screen. Get in touch with me. Also, if you have questions, let me know. Drop me an email. I'm here for you. I Really encourage you to follow me on social media. That's where I dropped some of the fundraising tips and hacks. I've used to raise over a hundred million dollars. I'm on Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, and this show is posted to YouTube. And I will be back in January with more hacks, tips, guests, and stories. So have a holiday season that is nourishing and relaxing. I hope you get the rest you need and I will see you next year. So again, thanks for joining me here at the philanthropy revolution. Have a good one. Bye.

Thanks for tuning in. I'll be back in two weeks with another episode. Got topics you want me to cover? Organizations you want me to showcase? Let me know. Also. I'm here to help you revolutionize philanthropy at your nonprofit. If you want to talk about what that looks like, drop me an email.

You can watch the full episode on YouTube or listen to Spotify.


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