With the mass of fundraising advice, sources, strategies and tools, a new nonprofit, just getting started with its fundraising, can be more than confused. Here are some simple steps to get you started toward a successful fundraising plan.
1. Develop your fundraising goals.
You should have goals for the amount of money you need to raise, plus what the money will be used for. Will you use it for overhead expenses? To fund an ongoing or new program? To build a new facility? To develop an emergency fund for a future rainy day? To close a deficit?
You will likely have a number of goals. If so, develop a fundraising plan for each one. Goals should be developed with your board of directors, and have the board's sign off. Having your board's involvement will also set the stage for their participation in the fundraising itself.
2. Write down your fundraising plan.
It is important not to just fly from one fundraising scheme to the next. Develop a written plan that states how much you need to raise, from what sources, and how you will do it. Don't worry, the plan can be revised as you proceed. Not all of your ideas will work out, or you may find new sources along the way.
Start with your current programs and current funding. Is that amount of money covered or is there a gap? Do you want to do more but lack the funds? This preliminary financial accounting will help you arrive at what your monetary goal should be for your fundraising.
3. Estimate how much your fundraising program will cost.
Be realistic when estimating costs, but plan to use cost-efficient methods so that costs don't eat up all your fundraising proceeds. Most experts recommend that fundraising and overall administrative costs not exceed 25% of your overall operating budget. In other words, three-quarters of your expenses should be spent on doing what you were founded to do.
4. Develop a timeline for your fundraising plan.
Fill in a year's calendar with specific activities, and identify who will be the lead for each of those projects. Go further by developing timelines for each fundraising activity, such as the direct mail campaign, the online auction, or the special event.
The timeline will surely change during the year, but having one to start with will ensure that you get something accomplished.
5. Identify funding sources.
Can current sources be leveraged to produce more income? Are there audiences you are not tapping? Have you considered government or foundation grants? Civic groups, churches or universities? How about product sales or other ways of achieving earned income? Do you have the capacity to solicit funds online?
6. Evaluate your fundraising plan during the year.
Evaluation will improve your results. Plan to evaluate what you are doing every few months. Develop what criteria you will use, such as amount raised, number of new donors, how many contacts you've made with foundations, improvement in donor cultivation activities. What accounted for the biggest successes? What were the biggest challenges? What should you change, drop, or add?
Once your organization gets the hang of raising funds for a year's operation, you'll want to move on to multi-year plans, higher goals, more sophisticated strategies, and newer techniques.