In this training, Fundraising Authority founder Joe Garecht will walk you through everything you need to know to develop a strong and practical development plan for your organization. Joe has written several dozen fundraising plans for organizations both large and small over the past decade, and now wants to teach you the method behind writing a plan that will work for you.
During this webinar, you will learn:
- Why your organization needs a written development plan, and how you can best use it to achieve your fundraising goals
- The simple, step-by-step process for writing a successful non-profit fundraising plan
- How to figure out which strategies and tactics will work at your non-profit
- The 10 components of a strong fundraising plan
- How to get your board and staff involved with and committed to your new development plan
Who Is This Webinar For?
How to Write a Successful Non-Profit Fundraising Plan is designed for anyone who wants to develop a better overall fundraising strategy for their non-profit organization, church, school or other charity. This includes board members, Executive Directors, Development Directors and Chief Fundraising Officers, as well as other development professionals who help develop fundraising strategy for their organization (or want to in the future).
This webinar will teach you everything you need to know to write an amazing fundraising plan for your non-profit. Whether you are writing your first fundraising plan or already have a plan but want to make it better… this training seminar is for you.
As an NPA member, you'll be automatically registered for the monthly webinars. If you aren't getting emails from GoToWebinar about these webinars, check your spam filter. Or check to see that your subscription is paid by going to http://members.thenonprofitacademy.com/
If you haven't gotten the emails from GoToWebinar but your membership is in good standing, use the registration link on the page of the training.
Everyone Who Registers Will Also Receive…
Sometimes, when it comes to writing a fundraising plan, it helps to have an example of a well-written plan in front of you, to work off of as a template. Thus, everyone who registers for this webinar will also receive a complete sample fundraising plan written by webinar presenter Joe Garecht to help guide your efforts.
Additional Materials for Creating a Successful Nonprofit Fundraising Plan
Download the audio here: Creating a Successful Non-Profit Fundraising Plan MP3
Download the slides here: How to Write a Successful Non-Profit Fundraising Plan
Download the complete sample fundraising plan here: Sample Fundraising Plan PDF
The Complete Transcript for Creating a Successful Nonprofit Fundraising Plan
Marc: Hello, everyone. This is Marc Pitman. Welcome to the next Nonprofit Academy Presents Training Seminar, so excited to have you here. This month is a great month. Every month that you're listening to this, is going to be a great month for planning your nonprofit fundraising. But this month, in particular for those of us that are here, live in January. It's a great time to reassess. We've had our end of year fundraising appeal. The dust is still settling to figure out how we did. But we can either start a plan if you're on a calendar year, or if you're in the middle of your fiscal year you can reassess your plan.
I'm so thrilled that Joe Garecht is here to take us through that process. By way of just orientation, if you're doing this on a screen, you should have the Q&A box on the left. If you're doing this live, please just feel free to ask questions in there. I'll be monitoring those as we go throughout. If you see it on your screen, just go there right now, and type "yes" in there, and we'll make sure that it's working. You can also tweet with the hashtag #npapresents, like you see on your screen there. I'll be monitoring that, as well. The replay of this will be available right after.
So Joe, my habit with the introductions here, instead of reading a lot of bio is just to try to be clean and quick, because I want to hear your content. Joe Garecht is the Founder of the Fundraising Authority. He came on my radar a few years back, and I've been totally impressed with the quantity and quality of teaching and training material that he's able to put out, with templates and handouts. And constantly it seems like there's another class that he's doing, in ways that would make it really approachable for all levels of nonprofit professionals.
So I am thrilled to be able to introduce... He's not a new person to the Nonprofit Academy, but I know too many of you he's new and I'm thrilled to be able to introduce him. His website that you should go to is the fundraisingauthority.com. I definitely encourage you to sign up for his newsletter, after the training. You want to be fully focused right now on all that he's going to share. So, Joe, with that take it away. Thanks for being here.
Joe: All right. Well, thank you. Thanks for having me, Marc, and thanks to everybody for being here today. I am super excited to be with you today to talk about writing strong fundraising plans. Because writing fundraising plans is one of my favorite things to do as a development professional. And I know that lots of people think, "Oh, a fundraising plan. That's the last thing I want to do. I want to go out there. I want to hold an event. I want to write a letter. I want to make an ask. I want to get out in the mix of things." And that's good. We should want to do that.
But before all of that, what we really need to do is focus on putting some plans in place for the coming year, to make sure we're working smart, because we all know one thing that what almost no nonprofit has or very few nonprofits have, is too much time or too many staff members, or too large of a budget. We're all really constrained in terms of budget, and time, and staff, and fundraising plans help us figure out how to best use those scarce resources that we all have as fundraisers.
Fundraising plans matter to the organizations. Yet so many nonprofits that I've worked with have no fundraising plan or they have a really weak fundraising plan. Or sometimes and this could be even worse, they have a 50-page fundraising plan that they wrote 10 years ago and then stuck it in a drawer. And no one ever takes it out and looks at it. So during this webinar what we're going to do is learn how to write a fundraising plan that literally changes the future of your nonprofit.
So before we begin, there I am. There's a picture of me. Marc already told you a little bit about me, but I've had the chance to work with a number of organizations over the past couple years. Actually over the past decade, to write brand new fundraising plans, or to redo fundraising plans for a nonprofit that's plateaued. My goal and this is my goal for you as well, is to never write an average fundraising plan. Because I know, as you know, I know that your nonprofit does great work, right? You do amazing work to help people, to help your community, to help the world, and you deserve, your organization deserves an awesome fundraising plan to help you reach your fundraising goals.
So what I want to challenge you to do is to not settle for an average development plan. Don't let your board, don't let your executive director, don't let your volunteers, whoever it is that you're talking to about a fundraising plan, don't let them get you to settle. Don't settle for something that you can slap together real quick. Write a supercharged fundraising plan and then implement it, and update it, and work with it, because you're a nonprofit and you deserve it, right?
And I want to say from the outset that the strategies and tactics that we're going to talk about in this webinar, for writing a really supercharged fundraising plan, I've seen them work for organizations large, small, and everything in between, and they apply whether you're new to fundraising. You can do this. You can write a great fundraising plan if you're new to fundraising. These also apply if you're a seasoned pro, if you've already written development plans before. There are still some great strategies and tactics here, for how to really supercharge that plan and get it to the next level.
Good fundraising plans are essential for every nonprofit and for every fundraiser. Now before I walk you through what we're going to cover in this webinar, I just real quick want to let you know, I'm just getting out of a cold. I'm just coming through a cold, so I apologize if my voice is a little scratchy. I've got four kids at home. The cold swept through the house over the holidays, so I apologize for that. But here's the couple of things that I really want to cover during today's webinar. Okay, first, we'll take a look at why nonprofit fundraising plans are so important and how you should be using your plan. How do you use a plan effectively at your nonprofit?
Then, I'm going to walk you through a simple step-by-step process for writing a successful fundraising plan for your organization. After that, we'll look at the ten components of a strong fundraising plan. So, first, we're going to talk about the process. How do you go about writing a fundraising plan? Then we're going to look at the ten things, I think are important to actually have in your plan. What does it take to be a really strong and workable fundraising plan? Then, we'll spend some time figuring out how to decide which strategies and tactics that you're thinking about including as part of your plan, which ones are going to work for your nonprofit?
Then finally and this is a big one, because it's a hang-up that I've seen in so many organizations, we're going to review how to get your board and your staff involved with and committed to your new fundraising plan. When I say staff, I don't just mean your fundraising staff. I mean your whole staff. Your program staff, your administrative staff; everybody should understand the importance of your fundraising plan and be committed to it, and not think of it as some kind of necessary evil, that's lurking in the drawer of that development director down the office, down the hall, that he or she waves around at staff meetings because we're not hitting our goals.
Everybody needs to be invested in your fundraising plan. That's how important it is for the success of your nonprofit. Okay, so why does your nonprofit need a fundraising plan? Does your nonprofit need a fundraising plan? Well, it is my belief that every single nonprofit, no matter how small or large, needs not just a fundraising plan, but a written fundraising plan to guide its efforts.
If you're just starting your nonprofit, maybe you only have two board members and they're your close friends. That's how most nonprofits start, right? Two or three people you know. You've got $1,000 in the bank that you've cobbled together. You still need a written fundraising plan. It may not be long and complicated, but it does need to be well-thought out.
Or maybe you're running a major worldwide organization and you have millions of dollars in the bank. You serve hundreds of thousands of people every year and you have affiliates on every continent. You may think you've got a system in place for fundraising and you don't need a fundraising plan. Well, you do. You still need a written fundraising plan.
Don't think that just because you're big, it means you've got it covered and you don't have to write it down. Every organization needs a written fundraising plan and that goes for every organization in between. Here's why. Here's why I think every organization needs a written fundraising plan. First, a written fundraising plan provides organization. A detailed fundraising plan creates organization in your fundraising office. And let's be honest, fundraising and nonprofit development is a chaotic world. People are constantly coming to you with ideas.
Do you know who you should call? Do you know what you should do? You should try this event. We should do this. We should do that. Having a written plan provides some serious organization and gives you the chance to say, "Here's before we were in the heat of battle, before we were in the heat of the fundraising moment, here's what we decided we were going to do. And so we're going to stick to it. We're going to test it and we're going to measure it and see if it works. But here's what we said we're going to do."
Second, a written fundraising plan defines responsibilities and this is key. So many organizations that have what they call fundraising plans don't do this. So, to me, they're not a real fundraising plan. A fundraising plan determines who does what and adds accountability to your fundraising efforts. All right, a good fundraising plan says, "Joe's going to be responsible for this. Jennifer's going to be responsible for this. Marc's going to be responsible for this." Then, it also sets deadlines. A good fundraising plan tells you when you need the money, when you need to implement the strategies, when you need to implement the tactics. They give deadlines which help motivate your team to perform, so deadlines and responsibilities.
A good fundraising plan also provides a credible fundraising tool for you. Think about it this way. When an investor purchases a business, he or she wants to see the financials that prove that the company can be a success. Often it is no different from major donors to your organization. When you're approaching major donors with your fundraising plan, it's not appropriate for every donor. It's not appropriate for most donors. But a summary of your plan can show to your major donors, to your board members, to select others, the foundations, why you need the money and let your donors know that you're serious, that you're going to be able to do this. It's like a capital campaign. If you're raising $10 million to build a new building, someone who's thinking about giving you $200,000 wants to know that you can possibly raise that $10 million. You have a plan behind it.
A fundraising plan also measures progress. A detailed fundraising plan lets you measure your fundraising progress, so you can make adjustments midway if things aren't working.
Then finally, the fundraising plan gets everybody at your organization on the same page. Your plan gets your board, your staff, your management, on the same page in terms of fundraising strategies and tactics. That's why I always recommend... we'll talk about this in a little bit ... but I actually recommend that organizations have their board of directors vote to approve the fundraising plan each year. This gets the board on the record, as supporting this particular course of action, and it lets fundraisers and executive directors have clear direction on expectations and goals.
So remember, you don't want to just write a fundraising plan. You want to use it. Your plan should be an actual usable guide for your development activities. You should be using your plan as a measuring stick for your fundraising. You should take your plan out every week or month, to see what kind of progress you're making. If you're falling behind in some areas, you should ask, "Is that because the work is more complicated than we thought when we wrote the plan?" Or "Does the plan set an unreasonable timeframe?" Or "Is it because the organization hasn't put enough emphasis on the strategies and tactics we're talking about?"
You can update your plan as needed. It can be a living, breathing document. Whatever you do though, don't let it just sit in a drawer collecting dust. Otherwise, you might as well not write a plan at all. You need to use it.
Now before we move out of this section, I do want to talk about the two most important parts of your plan. We talked about this for a minute there. The two most important parts of any fundraising plan, in my mind, are deadlines and responsibilities.
So many nonprofits that have fundraising plans, but that don't raise the money they want to raise, have fundraising plans that are very nebulous. They set general strategy, but they don't spell out action steps. They don't spell out the exact things that are going to need to happen to reach the organization's fundraising goals. In my mind, that's a huge mistake. Your fundraising plan should include not only general strategy, but also the key action steps that your organization will need to take to carry out that strategy this year.
For each action step, there should be a deadline telling you when the action needs to be completed by. And a responsible person showing who will be responsible for meeting that individual deadline. Fundraising plans without firm deadlines and responsibilities are not very helpful. I've seen that they're not very helpful for organizations. Instead, good fundraising plans are detailed. I like to say that an organization should be just a little worried about implementing their fundraising plan, right? So when you write your fundraising plan, you should be just a little nervous, about whether or not you can actually accomplish it.
Marc: I'm glad you said that because I was just thinking, people are squirming right now. But if my name is to that particular step... or their staff is squirming. So that's good.
Joe: Yeah, exactly and you shouldn't be scared. You shouldn't write a plan that's clearly not achievable. That doesn't make sense and sometimes I've seen nonprofits do that to please the board. The board says we've got to raise a million this year. So you put together a plan that you know isn't going to happen, but it gets you out of harm's way. That's not what I'm talking about. What I'm saying here is it should be achievable, but you should squirm a little bit.
It should be ambitious enough and clear enough on deadlines that everybody in your organization thinks, "Gee, we've got a lot to do this year. I've got a lot to do on this. My name's on there. I've got a lot to do, so we better get started." And, as I said earlier, the thing that helps with this is, the fundraising plan is not just the fundraising staff's responsibility. There should be components in there that are the responsibility of management, responsibility of the board, and even the responsibility of the program staff to support the aims of the fundraising program because fundraising is integral, obviously, to everything that your nonprofit does.
Okay, now that we've talked about those two most important parts, what I want to do is look through a step-by-step process. So remember, this isn't what to put in your plan. Before we talk about what's actually put in your plan, I want to talk about the process for writing the plan. Writing a great fundraising plan is going to take time. My suggestion is that you dedicate at least one or two months to the process, particularly if this is your organizations first written fundraising plan, and it can take longer.
But I'll be honest with you. Most of the time the problem with nonprofit fundraising plans isn't that they spend too little time on it. It's if they spend too much time on it. Once you commit to writing the fundraising plan, a lot of times you think it's got to be a 6 or 12 month process. That it's got to be this. You need to have a plan that's fleshed out, but it doesn't need to take forever. So, there are several key steps to writing a great fundraising plan. The first is research. So, first, you'll need to gather information and do some research.
You need to be asking questions like, "How has our nonprofit traditionally raised money? What's the state of our donor file? How many donors do we have and at what levels? What tactics have worked for us in the past? What tactics have not worked for us? Which have failed or at least failed to perform as we had hoped? How many prospects do we have? Where can we find more prospects?"
During the research phase, you and your team or just you, if you're the only person working on the plan, should not only figure out what your goals and objectives for the year are and look at things like the number of good email addresses that you have in your database. But you also need to understand which tactics are currently working for your nonprofit on the ground and in the field and which tactics are simply wasting time, money, and resources.
The next step is to hold some meetings and do some consensus building. So, in my mind, this step is to hold a series of meetings, one-on-one or in small groups with your staff, your board members, and with some key donors, supporters, and advisors to your nonprofit.
During these meetings you'll want to see what these key stakeholders think about your organizations current fundraising efforts. You should talk to these stakeholders about what programs and mission-related items they'd like to see your nonprofit engaged in, and try to build some consensus on the direction for your fundraising efforts, for the coming year.
The next step is writing the plan. So, once your research and your stakeholder meetings are complete, it's time to sit down and actually write the plan. I have found that it's usually best to have just one person writing the plan. Many organizations and consultants would argue with me on this point and suggest that writing your fundraising plan should be a team effort, with each team member taking responsibility for a different portion of the plan. I have found this method to lead to disjointed fundraising plans where they constituent parts don't add up to a strong whole.
I do think you should get a team together to discuss and revise the plan, but I advise having one extremely competent person from your nonprofit, sit down to write the first draft in its entirety. Depending on the size...
Marc: Would that be the person that is in charge of the department?
Joe: I would say it depends, based on the organization, and I've seen it done a couple of different ways. I've seen as you probably have as well, seen where a nonprofit has the development director write the plan. I've seen it where a lot of nonprofits obviously don't have a full time fundraising staff member, and so an executive director writes the plan. I've seen it effectively where a consultant writes the plan. My key thing for this is it's got to be someone who can see the whole picture and thinks strategically. So if you've got three people in your development department, it doesn't make sense to have the person who handles events in the database to write the fundraising plan. Normally the person...
Marc: That's exactly what I was thinking, yeah. As lovely as those people are, and as important as they are, each of us get into our own little silos, no matter how big the organization or how small. Yeah, that's a good point.
Joe: So for most nonprofits I would say it's usually the person who heads up the department, unless it's a mega-organization or you have a consultant do it. But as I said, I would have that one person sit down to write the first draft and then depending on the size and complexity of the organization, that's what's going to define how long it's going to take. That person may need one week, two weeks, three weeks to actually just write the plan.
But then after that, after that draft is done, what I like to do is bring the whole team together for the purposes of refining and strengthening it. So meetings with stakeholders and research by the team in the beginning, one person writes the first draft, and then the team comes back together to refine and strengthen that plan.
Now lots of consultants would tell you and lots of fundraisers would tell you, you should start your plan from the point of view that you want to raise as much as you can this year. When I talk to consulting clients or coaching clients, oftentimes when I say to them how much do you need to raise this year... and I always say need, instead of want. I say, "How much do you need to raise this year?" And they always say, "As much as possible."
Joe: Yeah, more, just more. So a lot of times when we start our fundraising plans people will say to themselves, "Gee, I think it's clear that we can raise $2 million this year, so let's write a plan to raise $2 million." Or "We raised $2 million last year. Let's do $3 million this year." I disagree with that methodology. For me, the starting point for every fundraising plan is actually the program side. Your nonprofit has a mission and you want to do a certain number of things this year to serve that mission. So what programs does your organization want to carry out this coming year or over the next two or three years?
How many clients do you want or need to serve? What will it cost to carry out your mission this year and implement those programs? That becomes your fundraising goal. What is the amount your nonprofit needs to raise to carry out its mission and programs this year? Then, you build a fundraising strategy to raise that amount. You start with how much you need to raise for programs, and then you figure out, what it's going to take to raise that much money. What will you have to do and what will you have to spend in development expenses, to hit those goals?
Then, at the end of that process ask yourself if the fundraising strategy that you laid out is possible. Can we do it? Can it actually be done? Given our current resources and our donor base and everything else can we actually do it? If the answer is yes, then great, you've got a solid fundraising plan. If the answer's no, you either have to figure out a new fundraising strategy to raise that amount, or you need to go back to the executive director and the board, and the program staff and say, "This is not possible. We cannot do this. So we need to figure out where some costs and programs can be pared back, to a level that we are going to be able to fund." It should be ambitious, but it should be doable.
Marc: So instead of going into... Sorry, that totally makes sense. But it's not what we see out there normally. Normally people want to do into their database and do the wealth screening and figure out what they can raise from the database. But you're saying that should only happen after there's a hard goal based on programs, is that right?
Joe: It is.
Marc: Totally makes sense.
Joe: I would say that the big exception there is mega-organizations, for instance, very, very large universities. Well, very, very large university I always say here, my example always is the University of Pennsylvania because I'm based in Philadelphia. University of Pennsylvania has several hundred full time fundraisers on staff. They have fundraisers for buildings. They have fundraisers for programs. They have tons of fundraisers on staff. They have almost unlimited resources to devote to fundraising. An organization like that is an organization that can define a goal based on the potential of their donor database in many cases, particularly because they have so rigorously tracked the metrics, on the success of their programs.
But for most nonprofits where we have one, two, three, four fundraisers, no fundraisers on staff, it makes much more sense to start with the programs. And then try to develop a strategy for raising the amount that the programs need, and then we need to be honest. That's the other problem that we have in lots of nonprofits. We're not honest about it. We can either raise that amount if we try really hard or not. In my mind, part of the turnover, we obviously know there's a lot of turnover in the development world. One of the big causes of that, I think, in addition to that development is underpaid and underappreciated, all of that stuff which is definitely true.
One of the other big problems is somebody gets hired to be a development director. The board says, "Great. We raised $3.5 million last year. This year I know just because I'm involved in lots of other boards and I've seen what... We can raise $4 million." And the new development director is new and so when they put together a plan, they don't think there's any way they can do it. But they never walk into the board and say, "You know what? That's not going to happen."
So at the end of the day the board is expecting you to raise $4.5 million. Last year you raised $3.5 million. You reasonably think you can raise $3.7 million and nobody's happy at the end of the day. So one of the biggest things you have to do is if we develop a strategy and a plan to raise a certain amount and it's not plausible. If you see things in the plan like, last year we raised at our big annual gala, half a million and this year we're going to raise $1.2, you know that that's not going to happen. So you've got to go back and talk to the...
Marc: So this is actually what I love about this, Joe. Is that I've been to one person's shop where I've had the board or the CFO say, "This is our budget. This is what we need to raise" and it felt like the last step. And I was always trying to backpedal to, "Well, let's look at our donors." What we could do is use that jujitsu. Is that the one where you take the opponent's energy? Fortunately I've never had a CFO that was an opponent. They're always working with me.
But you can go to them and then say, "Great. Okay, let's invest in seeing what our donor database is and what's working. Let's do the research and let's find out if we can actually raise that." So it's totally okay to have a budget. That's what you need to have a budget.
Joe: Yeah, absolutely and using things like the wealth screening and digging in the donor database and all that stuff, is crucial to answering the question. Once you develop the program budget and then you develop a fundraising strategy for it, then of course, the question, "Can we actually do this," the more hard numbers, the more data you can apply to that question, the more accurate your response is going to be. And also the easier it's going to be, like you said, to explain to the CFO or the board, or the executive director your reasoning behind it. So that data is absolutely crucial.
Marc: That's true because I think a lot of the time we look flaky. We say, "Well, we just can't do that" and we don't back it up with the data that we should, so that people just think there's no rational way to be able to say, "That's not going to happen." Yeah, I think you're right. That's good. Interesting, cool, I'm excited. Okay, thank you.
Joe: So step four, this plays right into step four is building support. In my mind, you absolutely have to have at your organization support for your development plan. People have to say, "Yes, this is the plan. Yes, it was well-thought out, a great plan. Yes, I'm committed to implementing it." So once the plan's been completed and reviewed and edited and strengthened, it's ready for prime time at your organization.
So I would suggest that you now shop the plan around, right? Shop it around to the staff, to the board, even to some of your key donors. If you have donors who are interested in this kind of thing, who have made big donations, and really like to get into the nitty gritty, get these people's support for the fundraising plan.
As I mentioned earlier, I also suggest going through the formal step of having the board of directors of your organization vote to approve the plan. I say this because this puts the board on the record as supporting the initiatives contained in the plan. It makes it easier when the time comes for your staff to seek the board's help with fundraising, it makes it far easier if you can say, "Now this is what we said we were going to do and the board voted to approve this. We have to give it a shot. We have to do it this year and it was well-thought ahead of time." Okay, so those are my four steps for actually writing the fundraising plan, the process for writing the fundraising plan. Okay, now that we've talked about...
Marc: I've got some questions, but I want to go into, I think the next ten things may help with some of the questions, a couple of the questions that came up. Sorry. So anybody that's listening, I see this. So hold off and let Joe continue presenting. Go ahead.
Joe: Okay and feel free to break in whenever you want. The next section and like Marc said, this may answer a lot of the questions, is what goes into the fundraising plan. In writing a couple of dozen fundraising plans, I've mixed it up a lot trying to figure out what I think is important to put into a fundraising plan, without too much fluff. I've come up with ten components of a really strong fundraising plan. So the truth is you may be saying, "Wait a minute." After you go through these, "Our fundraising plan looks different." That's okay. Every organization, every consultant, every fundraiser has a different formula and a different structure for writing fundraising plans.
Here's the secret I learned early in my development career. It's generally not the structure of the fundraising plan that matters. It's the content, and even more so, the fact that you sat down and wrote a plan in the first place, and were willing to put in those deadlines and responsibilities that we talked about. So don't agonize over the exact structure in terms of "Joe said that this should be third and this should be fourth. And in ours it's second or we've combined two sections." That's okay. Just start putting pen to paper and layout a good strategy and put in the action steps and the deadlines and you should end up with a strong fundraising plan. This is how I like to organize my fundraising plan.
The first is the cover page. Now this may not seem like an incredibly important component to your plan and in many ways it really isn't. But I would say this about your cover page and I say this because it's been a hang-up at a ton of different organizations I've worked with. Always include a plan year and a revision date on that front cover. For example, this is your fundraising plan for 2015, say that.
And likewise, if you last revised the plan on May 1, 2012, put that on the cover, as well. This is important because over time, if you are writing and constantly updating your fundraising plan, you're going to end up with several different years' worth of plans sitting in each of your fundraising staff member's folders or on their hard drives, as well as different versions of each of those years' plans. So you always want to make sure that you are editing or reading the most recent plan for your organization. You'd be surprised how many times this has tripped up organizations, particularly large ones with large fundraising plans.
The second component that's important is the background. I always say that you should include a background that briefly explains what's going on at the nonprofit that will influence the plan. This can be short; half a page to a full page, but it's a summary of the past couple of years and the current year. That will bring anyone who reads the plan up to speed with everything they need to know about how to interpret the plan correctly. Don't worry about sticking every little thing in here. You don't need to tell people about all the different staffing changes for the past year or how well each event did. Just tell the relevant, big picture facts that are going to impact your fundraising plan for the coming year.
In my mind, the way I like to think about is, if I have a new board member who comes on, and I hand him or her this fundraising plan, I want to be sure that after just reading the background they can interpret the plan correctly. If last year you decided to stop holding your big annual event because it was getting too expensive, you can put that in the background. So that someone who's reading it doesn't say, "Why aren't we having an annual gala that we used to have?" Likewise, if you recently expanded your board so that it would be more fundraising focused, you can put that in there, as well. Big picture items that impact the strategy that you have created as part of the fundraising plan.
The third component are your goals and objectives. Now this is the section where you state what your organization hopes to achieve with the plan. I say you should include numbers. Layout your fundraising targets for this year and for the next couple of years. How much do you need to raise? That's important. Right from the outset, we talked about how to come up with that number through the program budget, and of course, overhead and things like that, so put that in there. People have to know how much do you need to raise this year? Are there amounts that you need to raise each month, just to keep the doors open? What are those amounts?
Are there contingency goals where you'll be able to do additional work, if additional money comes in? Do you have stretch goals? Spell them all out in this section. Those are your goals, and you also would include your fundraising related objectives, in this section. For example, do you want to find three new members for your development committee this year? That's an important goal and it's going to take some strategy to get there. Put it in there. Are you looking to increase your email fundraising list by 10% this year?
And hopefully it's for a good reason that you want to do that because you've measured it in the past and you know that you're not hitting all of your current donors with your current email list size. Well, if that's the case, put it in there as an objective. Whatever your goals and objectives for the coming year, spell them out in this section with as much specificity as possible.
The fourth component is your assumptions, okay? This section lists the assumptions you're making in formulating the plan, every nonprofit makes assumptions. You're a nonprofit. You may have to think about it a little bit. But the truth is you're making assumptions as you layout your fundraising plan. So you have to list them here, so that everyone who reads the plan is on the same page.
So what are some examples of possible assumptions? Well, maybe you're assuming that the organization will be able to hire a new major gift officer this year. That's a big assumption and somebody has to know that if they go through your plan, and see that you're planning on making 15 donor calls a month through June, and then after that it jumps to 40. Well, where's that extra capacity coming from? It's coming because you're assuming that you're going to be able to hire a new staff member.
Or maybe you're assuming that the local Rotary Club will continue to hold its annual dinner dance that it holds every year in your benefit. But they're not going to confirm that until March, and so you're going to have to have a contingency plan, if that doesn't take place this year. But it's an assumption that you're making. Or maybe you're assuming and this is a big one for lots of nonprofits, maybe you're assuming that you'll continue to receive that big government grant this year. But again, you're not going to know until you get official word.
So list your assumptions upfront and know that if one of the assumptions doesn't bear out, you'll need to maybe rewrite part of the plan to map out a strategy for dealing with that new reality.
All right, the fifth component is your fundraising infrastructure. So this second half of the plan, the first four are kind of like the introduction. There are the assumptions, the goals, all lead up to this second half of the plan where things really start to get interesting, and maybe even fun. This is where you list out what you're going to do, what you're actually going to do this year to meet your goals. And this is where the strategy that you've been thinking about, that you've been developing in your head comes into play, and it all starts with your fundraising infrastructure.
So think, what infrastructure do you currently have in place for fundraising and what infrastructure do you anticipate needing over the coming year or years? Now infrastructure includes things like staff or additional staff, your donor database, your marketing materials, your case for support, your website, everything that you use to fundraise.
What will need to be upgraded or replaced this year? What do you want to add to make your team more effective fundraisers? List it all with deadlines and responsibilities for implementation, as well as the cost for each item, a fundraising budget for each item.
The sixth part of your plan is the donor prospect plan. This section answers a critical question. Where will we find new prospects for our nonprofit? The fundraising process starts with the prospect. Prospects are the fundamental starting point of the fundraising funnel.
Without prospects you will have no one to cultivate and without people to cultivate, you'll have no one to ask. So simply put, new prospects are the lifeblood of your fundraising efforts. If your nonprofit is having trouble raising enough money year-after-year, chances are you have a problem with your prospecting system. Sure, it could be that your cultivation strategy is flawed or that you're having problems with making good asks. But it's far more likely in my experience, that you are simply not feeding enough prospects, enough new prospects into your system to allow your cultivation and ask strategies to work.
So where are you going to find new prospects this year? Remember that the best place, of course, to find new prospects is to start with your current donors and ask for referrals. So do you have a referral plan as part of your fundraising plan this year? List out all of your prospecting strategies, again, with deadlines, goals, and responsibilities.
Marc: What would you mean by a referral plan?
Joe: A referral plan would be, "Do we have a process in place where we're going to go to each of our stakeholders, our board members, our staff members, our volunteers, our donors. And we're going to actually ask them, much as you might think like an insurance agent would, 'Who are the three people you know who might be interested in learning more about our nonprofit this year?'" Now it shouldn't be a hard ask. You're not saying to people, I'm never suggesting that people go and strong arm fundraisers, strong arm the Rolodex where you're saying, "Go raise me $5,000." But even with our board members, what do we have in place?
For instance, non-ask events or point of entry events, what do we have in place that's going to allow our board members to comfortably serve as the ambassadors for our organization to refer us to new people and to gently introduce them to the nonprofit? In my experience, the absolute best way to find new prospects above a certain level... and we're not obviously talking about $50 direct mail prospects. But to find midlevel and higher prospects is if we can figure out a strategy for non-threateningly getting our current supporters to introduce us to their network. So I always like to suggest that part of the donor prospect plan be a plan for referrals.
Okay, the seventh part, and you can see that these steps now in this section really build upon themselves. You need an infrastructure in place before you can find new prospects. And then once you find new prospects, you need to cultivate them. You need to communicate with them. So the seventh section answers the questions how are we planning to cultivate our donors? What will our cultivation path look like? And what's our communication's calendar look like? So cultivation, as we know it's everything our nonprofit does from the time we identify a person, business or foundation as a good prospect until the time that we make an ask of that person or that organization or that entity for our organization.
Cultivation is what happens in between. It's all of the communication and interaction that occurs between your nonprofit and your prospect. It's important to remember that the cultivation process has one major goal and that big goal is focused on the ask. Our cultivation efforts should move the prospects closer and closer to the organization, for the purpose of making an ask. The ask is usually for money, but it can be for other things. You can be asking the person to open up their network or to hold an event for you, but it's usually an ask for money. That's the big goal of the entire communications and cultivation component of the fundraising funnel, to move people towards an ask.
Now, of course, the cultivation process also has a lot of little minor goals, too. Hopefully you'll be creating new evangelists for your organization, people who are willing to spread the word about your good work. You'll be making new connections, friends of the prospect who will come into your orbit and you'll be generating new support in the form of volunteers and committee members. But the reason your organization spends so much time on the cultivation process is because the goal of the entire endeavor is to make the ask, and asks produce the money that your nonprofit needs to carry out its mission.
Marc: Joe, before we do that we need brand awareness. We need to have everybody just be educated in everything that we're doing first, don't we?
Joe: Yeah, you're right.
Marc: It drives me nuts. I'm so glad you have the focus.
Joe: You hear it so often and you'll notice that what you never have in this plan, one of the sections I do not have in this plan is raising awareness of our nonprofits. Because so often you hear what are your major goals for the coming year? And the nonprofit will say, "We need to raise awareness." And that by itself, without all of the experience that you and I have with nonprofits, that sounds like a reasonable goal and it could be, if it meant certain things.
But for so many nonprofits that is just a very formless, shapeless, directionless way of running a communications program. The truth is, again, we are as nonprofits we're so limited in terms of resources. We're so limited as fundraisers. We've got to fight for every dollar usually we want to spend on fundraising. And it's so much different than the for-profit world where people complain that the sales department gets everything. Whatever they want to spend, they can spend. If they want to hire more salesmen, they can hire more salesmen.
On the fundraising side, the counterpart to that is the development office and we're usually the most under-resourced and so we have to be real careful that we're not doing anything, that there's nothing in this plan as part of your plan, that doesn't have specific goals. You need to have specific goals. So in my mind, all of your communications move people towards an ask, and if it's not doing that, you probably don't have the time and the money to be investing in that work.
A part of the communications and cultivation section is also stewardship, right? We talk about cultivation and communication before someone makes an ask, but we also want to have a cultivation and communications plan for donors, once they make a donation. How do we get our donors to continue to give? How do we get them to upgrade year-after-year? How do we get them to make those referrals that we talked about, to help us build a fundraising network? Now remember...
Marc: That's where you're saying the ask doesn't have to just be for money. It should be, but we can... Adrian Sargeant was saying that every quarter we should be having significant touches, to increase retention. So after someone's made a gift within the next three months, we should have another ask, and it could be "Could we have an event at your house?" There are other ways to do the ask. It doesn't have to be just...
Marc: Although, it could be perfectly legitimate to say, "You just gave us $1,000. Look at how good that was used. Look at all the great things you did with that. Would you be able to do that for another one of our clients?"
Marc: That's great.
Joe: Also, my favorite ask in the stewardship phase after someone's given you money, my favorite ask is an ask for advice. If you call up the donor who's given you money and you ask them, "What do you think about this? Marc, you're in advertising." We're thinking up this new logo or we're deciding what the best subject line for our email. Whatever it is, "What do you think about this? Give me some advice." And even if you don't take the advice, even if it just goes in one ear and out the other, the fact that you asked gives that donor so much more ownership over what you're...
Marc: As long as you ask with integrity.
Joe: Oh, sure.
Marc: You're not asking because you're trying to manipulate their emotions.
Joe: Oh, exactly. So when I say it goes in one ear and out the other, what I really mean is you should be asking their advice, actually seeking their advice. If you end up disagreeing with the advice and not using it, that's okay. You may even want to shoot them a short email saying, "Thanks for your ideas. We decided to go a little bit of a different way. But hopefully it's okay if I continue to call you and ask these questions." Like you said if we ask with integrity it makes the donor starts to think of your nonprofit as our nonprofit, instead of that nonprofit. They're a part of your team.
Of course, as part of this communication section, there are a ton of different ways that you can communicate with your donors and cultivate them. Some of the most common strategies that nonprofits use are true donor communications of things like paper or email newsletters, mailing annual reports, updating your website, doing email blasts. Those are the kinds of things you should actually spell out in your communication section. Include a communications' calendar. You should know as part of your plan that we're going to be sending email newsletters every other month; January, March, May, July.
You should have that spelled out, so that when a board member, for instance, comes and says, "You know what? We've got something coming up. You really should send out a newsletter this month." You can say, "Wait a minute. We're sending out a newsletter next month because this month is reserved for our email solicitation, so we know we can send out an email ask and we don't want to double up on people." Whatever it is, you should have that communications' calendar laid out in your fundraising plan because it's so integral to everything you do as a development office. Events can be a great way to cultivate donors. We talked about non-ask events or point of entry events or introductory events.
You can also have just cultivation events or small group events where you're meeting and mingling with donors. Maybe you have a guest speaker that comes in or you have a tour of your facility or you hold a thank you coffee at a local business. You have a round table discussion, whatever it is, put those in your plan, as part of your cultivation strategy.
Volunteer opportunities, that's something that a lot of nonprofits think of as separate from fundraising. They think we need X number of dollars and we also need X number of volunteer hours. But when people donate their time, it's often a first step towards donating their money. And so offering volunteer opportunities to get prospects more actively involved will make them feel like they're part of your team.
Marc: All the studies that I've been seeing in the last year or two, I'm sure you've seen studies too, that show that million dollar donors, particularly million donors that are women really love volunteering with the nonprofits. A lot of us get this weird sense of whatever the size of the gift is, that's bigger than what we're comfortable with we usually think, "Well, we can't bother them." Well, it turns out not only did Gen X and Millennials like to volunteer, but it's also people of great net worth that want to get their hands involved in some way in the nonprofit. It's pretty cool.
Joe: That's why, just as a little tangent, why as fundraisers, keeping abreast of this kind of research and the stuff that comes out from people like Penelope Burke and Adrian Sargeant and other people, is so important. Because when you go to your board or you go to the executive director and you say, "I want to call so-and-so and see if he or she might want to head up this volunteer effort" and your board comes back or your executive comes back and says, "We can't ask them. They gave us $500,000 this year." You can say, "No, look. Here's what the research shows. There's a good chance they're going to like it." So having that in your back pocket is key.
Marc: It's awesome, yeah.
Joe: So volunteer opportunities, committee memberships, maybe you've got opportunities for people to serve on a committee. And again, not just a "We formed it just to form it," but a committee that does actual work. And again, you don't always have to take your committee's advice. You don't always have to agree with them, but maybe there's a committee of young professionals that can be working for your nonprofit. Maybe there's a committee of people who, depending on where you are, again here in Philadelphia, a lot of nonprofits have a ton of lawyers on their board because there are so many giant law firms.
Maybe there are lawyers forum or attorney's for a group, or maybe you've got a lot of people who are in sales and they might want to come together to help come up with ideas for development. Whatever it is, committee membership can be a great way to do it. Public relations, you should have a public relations strategy as part of this cultivation strategy, as part of your communication strategy. But again, if there's one thing that you take away from this when we talk about what to put in your plan, if your PR strategy isn't just a raise awareness strategy. It's "Okay, we want to get PR for specific reasons. We want to get PR because we want to get X, Y, and Z."
For any expenditure in your development plan, if you can't point out what the specific results of it's going to be, it doesn't always have to be money as the first step. It doesn't have to be "We're going to do this PR work because it's going to result in an extra $100,000 next month." It can be, "We're going to do this PR work because it's going to result in 25 new contacts next month and that's going to result in money." Whatever it is, but no matter what you're doing, whether it's on social media... A lot of people when they talk about what we're going to be doing on social media it's like, "We'll just splash around and see what happens." Whatever it is that's part of your fundraising plan, I think it should have specific goals, and of course, those specific responsibilities and deadlines.
So the eighth section, I know we're going a little long on these ten components. But the eighth component are the actual fundraising tactics. So this section details the tactics that you're going to use to actually make your asks and raise your money. Each tactic should have a little subsection with action steps, with deadlines and with responsibilities. So what are the little subsections? What are the common tactics?
Well, it's whatever you're going to be using. This is where you really have to develop your strategy for the coming year. The common tactics would be things like direct mail, events, online fundraising, grants, government support, annual giving programs, monthly giving programs, planned giving, endowments, capital campaigns, affinity groups, fundraising networks, all those different things you're going to be doing to raise that goal, the full amount that you put early on in the plan. You have to detail exactly what you're going to do to reach those goals in this section. What are the tactics you're going to use?
And then in number nine, this component and this might seem a little redundant, so stick with me. At the end of my fundraising plans, I always include two items that summarize the plan in the work. The first is this section. It's the fundraising needs and goals. This is a numbers driven, primarily numbers, summary of what your organization needs to do to raise the money that you've said you're going to raise and how you're going to raise it.
So if early on you said you needed to raise a million dollars, this page I like to have a one-page summary that says, "Okay, our overall goal is a million. We just walked you through all of our tactics. Here's how we're going to raise that million. Events are going to raise $200,000. Annual giving's going to raise $300,000. Our board giving campaign is going to raise $50,000. The grants are going..." Actually list it out, list out your overall goal which is synonymous with your fundraising need and then the goals for each of the tactics that you've spelled out. Sometimes depending on the organization, you also want to include your fundraising budget on this page. You also want to say, "Okay. We just walked you through what we're going to do to raise this amount of money. Now here's what it's going to cost."
You can see up at the top of the page we're going to raise $100,000 holding events this year. Now at the bottom of the page, you can see that we're going to spend $75,000 or whatever it is... You wouldn't spend $75,000. But we're going to spend $25,000 and the number above is the net number which means we're going to raise $125,000, but we're going to spend $25,000. You cobble together that fundraising budget. I always lead with, "What do our programs need?" That's our fundraising goal. Then we put together a strategy for reaching that goal and evaluate can we actually do that? Can we actually implement this strategy? Then once the answer is yes, we think we can actually implement this strategy, here's the budget for that strategy. Here's what it's going to cost.
Again, this is key when you go to your board and you ask them to approve your fundraising plan because they've got to approve the fundraising budget as well. When a board member or an executive director or whoever, comes to you and says, "This is great. I love the plan, but you say we're going to spend $200,000 this year on fundraising. We can only spend $125,000." You could then go back to that board member and say, "Great. What should we cut? I told you what we we're going to do to raise the money. Specifically what are we going to cut? If we're going to have to cut $75,000, we're going to have to cut our direct mail program." And they're going to say, "No" or they're going to say, "Yes, cut that."
And then you're going to say, "Okay, but you also realize if we cut that, we then have to go back further up the plan and cut our overall fundraising expectations. Because if I'm not going to raise that $200,000 through direct mail or you're not going to pay for me to go on donor visits out of state, then we can't expect that money to come in from major donors out of state." So it all has to be adjusted and it's key when you put together this plan, it's a key way that your board and your executive director can get the overall look and feel of your fundraising program and see how everything, including expenditures ties together.
The tenth and final component that I include in my fundraising plans is... I said earlier that I like to include a list of action steps, in each of the sections of the plan that lists what needs to be done, and by which deadline, in order for the plan to succeed. Then as the tenth and final component of the fundraising plan, I always include a consolidated list that has all the action steps that I've talked about all through the plan. This time listed chronologically. This allows anyone who reads the plan to get a good picture of all the activity that is currently going on, and to see what the deadlines and goals are and know who is responsible for each.
I know this sounds a little... it's hard to picture. So I think the best way to see what I mean with this action step timeline is to take a look at a sample plan. So Marc, if it's okay with you, after the webinar's over, I'd like to send to you a sample plan that includes this action step timeline that you can share with everyone who's on the webinar.
Marc: Well, I guess so. I think that would be great, yeah. That would be super and I want to let everyone know we're at the top of the hour. Joe, are you all right going through the rest of this presentation?
Joe: I am. I apologize. I've been a little long today.
Marc: If you need to go, remember the recording will be up in minutes, after we complete it. Joe will send me a sample plan. That will be there. The slides are already uploaded there, so you'll be able to get all this content. I know you're going to want to get other people to listen to this too and if you're able to stay with us, awesome. Let's keep moving forward. Thanks, I've got pages of notes already. This is great.
Joe: Good, glad to hear it. So this sample plan that I'll send to you is a plan based on an actual client plan that I wrote. But it's in this ten component format. But take a look at that action step timeline. I love it because when you create a plan that includes this, if your organization raises a couple of million dollars a year, your action step timeline, it might be four or five-pages of just bullet points with what you're going to do and who's going to do it, and the deadlines. But it's super impressive. There's nothing like handing that to a board member and saying, "Look. Here's everything we're going to do this year. It's a lot, so we deserve your support." And your board member or whoever it is looks at that and says, "You know what? This is well-thought out. This is a fundraising expert. This is someone who knows what they're doing. Let them run the strategy."
Marc: This is probably why 50% of CEO's want to fire their fundraiser is because often, I've had CEO's tell me, "I don't know what my fundraiser's doing." This would help answer this question very well. That's great.
Joe: Exactly. So, those are the ten components of, I think, a strong fundraising plan. Now that you know those ten components, the next question of course for you, for every organization is how do you know which prospecting, which cultivation, which fundraising strategies are going to work for your nonprofit? How do you know? You may be sitting there thinking, "Okay, great. I know what needs to go in the plan, but how do I know what I should put together, what puzzle pieces I should fit together, to allow me to reach our goals?"
And while the overall going in depth into each fundraising tactic and strategy is far outside the scope of just one webinar, there are four keys that I've come up with that guide my decisions. This is less, me telling you which strategies to put in your plan, and more of me saying, "As you're deciding, here's the lens you should look through. Here are the four key concepts that should guide your decisions, as you try to figure out what will work and what you should include in your plan." Here are the four keys.
The first one is individual fundraising and individual fundraising networks rule. You've heard this over and over again, from Marc, from lots of different fundraising strategists I am sure. But the vast majority of money obviously that's raised by organizations in the US and Canada, Australia, Ireland, around the world, in First World industrialized nations, comes from individuals, in the form of annual giving, capital, endowment, planned giving, capital campaigns, endowment campaigns, planned giving, major gifts, direct mail, it comes from individuals.
And so it doesn't come from foundations. Foundations can be a great source of money. They're not the primary source of money. Other nonprofits can be a good source of money. Government money can be a good source of money. But it's not the primary source of money for nonprofits. And the number changes each year, but let's say that you're in the United States and 70% or 75% of all money given to charity comes from individuals, that means that 75% of your time and effort should be spent on raising money from individual givers.
So when you're deciding what puzzle pieces to put in your plan, remember that individual fundraising should consume most of your plan and most of your activity, and of course, individuals are also great sources of referrals. Someone gives you a gift include a way to ask for referrals in your fundraising plan.
The second key concept is to remember that the more personal the solicitation is the better result will be. So as a general rule of thumb, the more personal you can be in your fundraising activities particularly with your asks, the more effective it will be. So remember that as you plan your fundraising tactics. Thus, making an ask in person is better than making one over the phone. And making an ask over the phone is better than making one through direct mail, and making an ask through direct mail is normally more effective than making an ask through email and so on and so on. Now this doesn't mean that all of those strategies don't have a part to play. They do. It's a cost/benefit question for your nonprofit based on your available resources.
Make your asks and cultivation methods as personal as you can, based on your staffing, based on your resources, based on your money and based on not overloading your team. So, for example, you may decide that you have enough resources to do personal visits with the top 10% of your donors in the year and that your team can also handle making regular phone contact with all of your major givers and event sponsors. Or you may have enough bandwidth to do personal visits with the top 20% of your donors, and to hold cultivation events for all of your other donors each quarter and to have direct mail just for your smaller givers.
Whatever you decide, make your choices based on your available time and money and know that the more personal the solicitation, the better. The key here is to make it a deliberate decision. Don't just fall into a solicitation method. Don't just fall into it and say, "Maybe I'll pick up the phone today." Decide, based on your available bandwidth, who's going to get calls, who's going to get visits, who's going to get invited to small group events, who's going to get emails, personal emails, who's going to get personal letters, okay?
The third key concept is to build on what has worked before. It's a good bet that what has worked before for your organization will work again. For this reason, you should always as much as possible, be testing and measuring your fundraising tactics so that you know how much is raised through each tactic and with what amount of effort it requires to raise that amount.
So, for example, do you have the data at your nonprofit to be able to compare fundraising events to direct mail, to major donor solicitations? Can you tell me how many staff hours it takes you to raise $10,000 through an event versus $10,000 through major donor asks based on the data that you have from the past three years? How much does it cost you to acquire a new donor through direct mail? How about through email? How about through asking current donors for referrals? If you don't know the answers to these questions, it's going to be very hard to make smart and well-informed tactical choices for your fundraising plan. So start measuring and collecting data now if you haven't done so already.
Once you know what works and what doesn't, consider dropping those tactics that haven't worked for you in the past, and putting more money and more energy into growing those tactics that are working. So if your events are taking up way too much time, but your direct mail's going gangbusters, consider investing more in direct mail and cutting back or eliminating your event program.
Note that this doesn't mean that you should never try anything new. I'm a big fan of nonprofits trying at least one new fundraising every year. Just be sure to measure your results so you know whether to include that tactic in your plan next year or whether to drop it and try something else.
Then the fourth and final concept is you're planning your fundraising tactics for the year is to set big goals. The best way to supercharge your fundraising plan, as you write it, is to think big about it. Now you shouldn't go crazy. We've all seen fundraising plans that bear no relation to reality. Like we said, if you only raised $100,000 at your big event last year, you are not going to raise a million dollars this year at your big event. So how exactly... what am I saying here? What kind of big goals should you be setting?
In general, I suggest that you think bigger about your plan this year than you ever have thought about it before. I've seen far too many organizations that set the same goal every year for their tactics. They say, "We raised $15,000 through email last year. Let's do that again this year." Or "Let's raise $15,050 this year through email." When what they really could be doing is coming up with a strategy for raising far more. Don't just write another fundraising plan. When deciding on your tactics, be ambitious. You'll never know what you can truly accomplish until you set big goals and try to achieve them.
All right, I'm going to spend just two minutes here because I know we're going long, two minutes on how to get your staff and your board committed, right? We talked about...
Marc: Okay, wait. Joe, before we do this because this is something that was one of the questions with the big goals. I was always one where we'd set the goal and then I'd have my own personal goal. We've done that with clients, where we had our own internal goal that we were really aiming for. But it wasn't the one that the board had voted on. Are you saying set the big goals in the written board-approved fundraising plan or is that similar to there's a published goal, but then there's the one that we're really stretching ourselves to?
Joe: Well, I think the answer is both. I think that your written goal in the fundraising plan should still be a big goal. It shouldn't outlandish, but it should still be a big goal. The reason why is because if you go to your board and say, "I need your help filling up this introductory event in June" and they say, "Well, why? We do just fine. We raise a million every year. Our plan for this year is to raise just a little bit more." Instead, I want to instill a sense of an all-hand's on deck scramble. Not a panic, but a scramble. I want to say to our board and our volunteers and our donors I want to say "You know what? This nonprofit's doing big stuff."
It has to be true, obviously. But I want to be able to say, "We served 20,000 meals to the homeless last year. But that meant that on an average month, 500 people went hungry. Our goal this year is to do X, and in order to do that, we need to raise more money and it's pretty big, and it's not going to work if you don't help. So we're all in this together."
Marc: This goes back to what you said with the start of your plan; it's based on the program side of the house, which is perfect because the program understands why the fundraising's happening and the board can get behind it. It's not just fundraising for fundraising's sake. It's fundraising because there are hungry people out there, or a land that needs to be conserved, or animals that need to be neutered. That's really cool.
Joe: Right, yeah. The thing is it's not just your board. It's your donors, if I'm going to a donor...
Marc: Oh, I know that.
Joe: ...you should probably upgrade it.
Marc: As a fundraiser when you feel like you're blowing smoke because you're just trying to raise your own personal goal and it doesn't have anything to with educating people or advancing a cause, it's just "I'm trying to keep my job." That is a really weak place to be asking from. Not that I've ever done that.
Joe: All right, so you have your development plan. It's a good one. You know it's going to help you reach your fundraising goals. The final thing I want to talk about is how do you get your board and staff to buy into the new plan. All right, you want your board committed to the plan because you not only want them to vote to approve the plan, but you also want them to take a leadership role in your fundraising activities. You want your staff committed to the plan. I don't just mean the fundraising staff. I mean the program staff too, because you need your team to passionately work to carry out the plan. To be honest with you, most of your staff... this is one particularly your fundraising staff... will probably have never seen a plan like this before.
They'll never have seen a fundraising plan that includes 52 action steps, and firm deadlines, and firm responsibilities. Plenty of people who have worked in corporate environments might have seen that, but your fundraising staff probably won't. And it means that your team is now responsible for carrying out the tasks that were assigned to them in the plan. So I've found that the same two tactics work for getting both your board and your staff to buy into the new fundraising plan.
The first is to involve your staff and your board in the writing of the plan. We talked about that earlier. It doesn't mean you should farm out pieces of the plan to different members of your team to write. But it does mean you should seek input from your board and your staff before you write the plan. Let them be heard. Hold one-on-one and group meetings to let your team members and your board tell you what they hope to see included in the plan. Keep the good ideas. Discard the rest, but let everyone have their say before the plan is written. It's going to a long way to garnering buy-in for the plan.
Then second, you want to explain to your board and your staff why a written fundraising plan is so important and why you're including firm deadlines and responsible people who are responsible for each task in the plan. I like to make a presentation at a board meeting prior to the beginning of the writing process, to talk about fundraising planning and why it's important, and how we're going to go about it. I also like to go to a full staff meeting, if your organization has them, to explain what we're doing and the process of how we're going to carry it out and to let people know that if they want to have input, they can.
Being open and honest goes a long way towards helping everyone get on board with the plan. After that, it's up to you or your staff to write a great plan that will supercharge your fundraising and take your organization to the next level. Hopefully that was helpful for all of you, as you're creating your next fundraising plan and you know I'd be happy to answer any questions, anyone might have.
Marc: Well, I'm glad we held off, Joe. This has been so good with the questions you've actually answered, as we've gone through. But the big one that came up in the beginning... But I just want to make sure, if we could just take a minute to touch on this, you get the board's approval. You've involved them. You've involved the staff. Then the board member goes to a gala and comes back and says, "We need to start doing ice skating rinks on our yard because the gala people were saying that for their nonprofit, that they created an ice skating rink."
So they come up with this cockamamie scheme that sounds incredibly real to them, very sincere. How do you have the conversation? How do you navigate that? "Well, we have a plan" without it sounding like you're saying, "Don't be an idiot" which is maybe what you're feeling. But how do you keep people just to remember the plan and think about maybe putting it off until next year? What have you found to have that conversation with people?
Joe: Yeah, so, a couple of things. The first is before any of this comes up, as you're just explain the plan to your board and to your staff, make it clear that you have packed in as much as humanly possible in terms of fundraising for this coming year. That's what I talk about, just a little bit of stress, a little bit of dread about "Can we really actually accomplish this thing" and "Oh my, goodness. We're all in it together." Like the board has responsibilities, the program staff has responsibilities, fundraising staff has responsibilities. And, "Boy, we have packed this thing full." That will go a long way as you're having the conversation to being able to point back to that.
Second, I always suggest saying to board members and it's not just board members. You're going to get as fundraisers everybody comes to you with ideas, right? We all know that. Everybody comes to you with ideas. Nobody wants to implement them. Nobody wants to be responsible for implementing them. But they have the best idea for you or who you should call or whatever it is. So I like to be able to say to them, "That's a really interesting idea. I want to do some research on it. We are, as you know, we will be writing next year's fundraising plan in December. So let me look into that and we'll keep it in the mix as we're deciding on our strategy for next year." So the fact that you have a plan and that you also have a plan for considering their suggestion, normally is enough.
I've found that if I say to a board member or someone else, "That's really interesting. I hadn't heard about that. I'm going to look into it and do a little research. We're writing the next plan in December. I'm going to keep it in the mix." That's enough. They may come back to you in December. You're going to actually have to keep a list, actually think about it, and actually at a certain point you're not going to be able to get away with never saying no.
At a certain point you're going to have to say, "We looked at this" and usually the best answer is because it's usually the truest answer, it's usually "We don't have the time or the money to implement this the right way for us." Because the truth is most fundraising tactics will work for someone. There's someone out there who has made... I know it. There's got to be an organization out there that has made a million dollars with bake-at-home pizzas. It's had to happen for somebody.
So when your board member comes to you and says, "We've got to have our kids sell bake-at-home pizzas," you can legitimately say, "That works for lots of organizations. We don't have the time and the money it would take to have it work for us." Ultimately you have to be honest about it. But I would rather than trying to shoot it down in midyear, I would start to train your board and train your program and executive staff that we make decisions on fundraising strategy once a year.
It doesn't mean we don't tweak things, but for big, new things, particularly things that are going to require a budget line item, things that are going to shift around the budget, we decide them once a year. Then we go out and we work our hardest to implement them. If something's not working, we will change it. But barring that, barring the fact that we have to scramble because something is either working far better than we thought or far worse than we thought, but new tactics we decide on once a year.
Marc: That's great. Well, thank you so much. I think those are some great lines that we can use and some great plans that we can implement in our own nonprofits. Like I said at the beginning, I really firmly believe that the timeliness of this webinar is that you can reassess, even if it's just post-it notes and scraps of paper on your desk plan or buried in board minutes. But you can reassess right now. Take some time right now and just look at what is it that you think you're doing and maybe even pull it together.
Or even the action step timeline. If you're feeling overwhelmed that may show you the press points, "Oh, it is because I am overwhelmed, that I do need to get a volunteer's person to come in and do this or a part-time person to help me out here. I need to ask for help somewhere." So Joe, thank you so much for your planning. Are there any closing thoughts that you'd like to share before we close this training out?
Joe: The idea that while planning is important it doesn't have to be. I know I've thrown a ton of information at you today. Four of this, ten components, two ideas, it doesn't have to be super-stressful. The key is if you have never had a plan before, develop a plan this year and have deadlines and responsibilities in it. That's the big takeaway. And if you've had a plan in the past and it didn't have deadlines and responsibilities, include them this year. If it didn't include action steps, include them this year. Make it a deliberate process.
If you're not quite sure on including goals and objectives or you're not quite sure, that's okay. Spend this year learning about it, but write a plan and take a look at the sample plan that Marc's going to send you. And certainly if you have any questions going forward, you can always reach me. I'm happy to answer any questions you have, firstname.lastname@example.org, particularly after you get that sample plan, if you have questions about certain parts of it, just shoot me an email. I'm happy to answer them for you.
Marc: I think, people, you'd probably want to have Joe do the presentation to your board and to your staff too, so that'd be another thing you could ask him about hiring him to do. Thank you so much for being here, Joe. I'm really thrilled for everybody that was able to listen to this live. Also, that are going to listen to the recording know that the training, as always with all the trainings, you're going to get the recording on the page. In the online vault you're going to get the slides, the video for the slides, the MP3 of the audio and the transcript. Then we'll even put the sample plan right there, so the whole package is on the Creating a Fundraising Plan page.
Be sure to go into the online vault and check out the next webinars that are coming out. We've got some great presenters that are coming. As you're doing that, also go to the fundraisingauthority.com and sign up for Joe's newsletter because he just keeps putting out good stuff. I consume his material on Feedly. But you definitely either get it in your inbox or get it on your RSS feeder.
Then for all of you that are Nonprofit Academy members, I am thrilled to be having a call with you in a couple of weeks and the information's on the dashboard, the member's only dashboard. And please take advantage of the Facebook member's only group. We've got some great, great minds in there and it's a safe, truly a safe place to ask burning questions or to explore different issues that you have. With that, we've come to another end of another NPA Presents. Have a great month.