Do’s and Don’ts for a Great Annual Fundraising Plan

It’s the slow time of mid-summer, and it’s time to step back from your day-to-day work for a

AND – It’s time to look ahead at your fundraising plan for the coming year.

I hope you enjoy your down time this summer! (Where are YOU heading for vacation?)

But let’s take time now for some smart planning while things are slow. I can assure you that a smart fundraising plan for the upcoming year can help you expand your fundraising potential  . . . and your results!

We all know that a little planning now helps you stay sane later when things get really busy!

Fundraising Plan Don’ts:

1. Overly optimistic and unrealistic.

Don’t be one of those smart fundraisers are overly optimistic about what they can humanely achieve.Optimistic-In-Face-Of-Reality-Button-0289

They are so optimistic that they load up their plan with everything they need to do and then they add the stuff they WOULD LIKE to do.

I think it’s wonderful to be aggressive, but really now – do you want to commit to strategies that you KNOW are impossible to achieve?

Be completely realistic about what you and your staff can actually pull off in excellence!

2. Pie-in-the-sky goals.

I am often surprised to see fundraising goals just pulled out of the air. Or fundraisers tell me their goals are set for them by their superiors based on nothing in particular.

More than once, I’ve seen fundraising revenue goals that are just “plug figures” to make the budget balance. (Whaaaat??)

Fundraising goals need to be based firmly in reality – on hard facts and concrete realities. Don’t ever commit to a goal without knowing that you can actually make the numbers.


Fundraising Plan Do’s

1. Make smart choices.

A good fundraising plan will force you to choose what you WILL do and what you will NOT do in the coming year.choice

Why? Because you are making choices based on a realistic assessment of your opportunities, track record, staffing and budgetary resources.

For example, if you only have staff to do 2 events, then you are not going to plan to do 4 of them.

Any plan is important for what it chooses to get done. It’s also important for deciding what NOT to do.

2. Set priorities.

Your plan forces you to set priorities.

What are the “must do’s?” And what are the “would like to do’s?”

Some things you just can’t avoid – events, board meetings, grant proposals, and reports  – these things are already cast in concrete.

Once those must do’s are on the calendar, you can then take a realistic look at how much time is left over for the rest of your priorities.

With limited time and staff, you will have to raise some jobs and tasks to a higher priority level than others.

3. Dovetails with your organization’s business plan and goals.

Clearly your plan doesn’t live in a vacuum. It needs to be completely aligned with your organization’s overall activities and plans – both short term and long term.priority

For example, perhaps you are a performing arts organization planning to stage 4 performances this year. Your fundraising plan will structure appeals and events around these performances.

Or you are an after-school child-care center planning to expand into an additional school district. Your fundraising plan will focus around this expansion in all your appeals and events.

4. Based on current reality.

Your fundraising should start with a thoughtful assessment of where you are, what you have to work with, your challenges, and your unique strengths and connections.

Start your planning by taking stock of how well your current strategies are doing. How can we tweak our current work and make it more effective AND more efficient?

What’s working now? What’s not working so well?

A smart plan forces you to evaluate:

  • Your current numbers and your trends – unemotionally!
  • Your ways of acquiring new donors
  • How well you are deploying your volunteers

    Evaluate where you stand before you start planning!

    Evaluate where you stand before you start planning!

  • Your donor retention strategies – and your entire donor communication program
  • Your web site and donation process
  • Your staffing – including organizational structure, responsibilities, skill sets, work loads, training needs and how well everyone is working together – or not.

That’s where your fundraising plan has to start!


It’s really important now to step back and organize yourself – and your office – and ALL your strategies and tactics – for the coming year.

I can promise you that if you DO create a smart plan – you will have a focus, well-thought-our and doable strategies. You’ll sleep better at night AND you’ll raise a lot more money!

Join me to create your OWN strategic fundraising plan!

My next two workshops will give you the templates, checklists, assessment formats – all the tools I think you need to create your BEST plan for the coming year.

  • On July 29, we’ll tackle step one – a full assessment of how well we are doing and how much money is on YOUR table.
  • On August 11, we’ll set our financial goals and detailed action plans for the coming year so we can systematically go after all those gifts and contributions.

You can find out more about the workshops and register here!

  • Great reminders Gail! I like that you included setting priorities. I like to think of the lower priority items as “things I will definitely do, unless something more important pops up”. Too often, lower priority items never happen, because there were too many high priority items in the first place. I save room for lower priority items and actually build them into work plans, essentially as placeholders, so I’ll have time to work in the various unexpected projects that always seem to appear out of nowhere. Best of luck with your upcoming workshops!

  • Great information. I really like how you mentioned focusing on current reality. All too often we get caught up in what we’d like our reality to be. We need to focus on where we are while setting realistic and attainable yet challenging goals for the future. Good piece.