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A good fundraising plan can make a vital difference in the quality of a nonprofit organization's programs and services. It can be the map by which the organization charts and secures its future. This step-by-step guide is designed to help you and your organization construct an operational fundraising plan that is appropriate to your specific funding needs. From meeting deadlines and scheduling special events to creating an overall plan for fundraising activities, The Fundraising Planner ensures that all activities fit together as a whole and support each and every program.
The model presented in this workbook is flexible and suited to multiple purposes. Use The Fundraising Planner and learn how to:
* Create an effective overview plan
* Formulate a calAndar of events, mailings, and strategies to attract contributions
* Draw fundraising ideas from financial data
* Strengthen your donor and prospect lists
* - Survey your board to refine its mission
* Produce a basic funding proposal and press kit
* Prepare clear status reports for the board, development staff, and key fundraising participants
* Track progress towards your funding goal The authors have organized the workbook into four sections corresponding to the main stages of designing a fundraising plan:
* Understanding the Big Picture
* Deciding Plan Inputs
* Putting the Plan Together
* Monitoring the Plan Within each section, chapters detail how to master an essential fundraising skill and offer "To Do" exercises to reinforce learning. The exercises allow you to build a cogent, practical fundraising plan. Additionally, there are real-life examples reflecting current fundraising issues across the country. The Fundraising Planner provides easy-to-follow advice to fundraisers from organizations of all sizes. With this valuable guide, you and your team can achieve greater efficiency in the day-to-day challenges of fundraising.
FOR BUSY FUNDRAISERS, the idea of creating a fundraising plan can seem beside the point and the act of planning a waste of time: "We need to be out raising money, not creating hypothetical giving scenarios!" If your fundraising program relies on a few major donors, then maybe you can manage without preparing a detailed plan, as long as you can keep those donors at the top of your priority list, stay in close contact with them, and regularly review ways to ensure their continued support. Even in this simplified situation, however, you face the risk of losing stalwart supporters through unforeseen changes in circumstances. In addition, even if you're not planning your ongoing fundraising, you probably should be planning for the future health of your nonprofit and increasing your base of support.
If your fundraising involves researching, cultivating, and using various techniques to solicit dozens, if not hundreds, of prospects from the public and private sectors (individuals, corporations, foundations, and government sources), then the process can soon become difficult to manage effectively without a plan. The results of insufficient planning quickly become apparent: prospects are forgotten; mailings, cultivation events, and one-on-one solicitations don't get the attention they need; and the talents of the fundraising team are not maximized, which in turn means that the board members, staff, and committed donors upon whom the nonprofit relies fail to receive the attention they need.
There are many tangible benefits to planning. To begin with, having a plan allows you to carry out these three important steps:
1. Focus on what is important: understanding the big picture-the organization's funding need and how you plan to achieve it-allows you to spend your time wisely.
2. Take care of the details: deciding on the inputs to your plan-the tasks needed to achieve your goal-and ranking them improves your productivity.
3. Track progress toward your goal: preparing monthly progress reports that monitor the results of your fundraising plan gives you critical feedback -should a change in plan become necessary, you can make it.
Focus on What Is Important
Fundraisers are like jugglers; they always have several balls up in the air. While you're getting one mailing out, you've already got to start planning the next. You're in the middle of one event, and another starts tomorrow. Staying in touch with people who just gave is essential, but you've got to keep going out and getting other people to give, widening your net.
Juggling all these tasks-just keeping track of them all-let alone monitoring their progress, can be a tremendous challenge. We've all had the experience of missing the anniversary of a major donor's gift, finding out that a foundation application is due right now, or scrambling to get out one more special appeal for funding. It's not fun!
Fundraisers tend to be very creative, entrepreneurial people for whom the routine of planning is not immediately appealing. Many tend to rely on their memories rather than reports and calendars. However, even if you have an excellent memory, you'll find that keeping yourself organized and on track will make it easier for you to identify and successfully complete all the fundraising tasks your organization needs from you.
Take Care of the Details
Creating a schedule and sticking to it will improve your productivity. Conversely, missed opportunities can be sore reminders that planning improves fundraising results. Have you ever experienced grant application deadlines that somehow got away? Have you ever shared the galling experience of the development associate who heard that a donor to his organization had made a large gift to a similar nonprofit-just as the associate finished a quarterly review in which he admitted to "not having had time" to get around to that donor?
Once a social services agency that was relatively inexperienced in raising money from the private sector found a contributor who became a fairy godmother (the agency had previously depended on government grants and vouchers). This woman not only supported the agency personally but she asked her friends to give. She hosted a cocktail party to introduce her friends to the organization and followed up on the event with a written appeal. That combination raised close to $100,000.
The following year, however, the nonprofit let all this momentum slide until nearly past the date when this donor group had previously given. In the midst of all the other demands on people's time, no follow-up event was planned and no solicitation letter drafted, even though the institution's fiscal year was drawing to a close. At the last minute, with the willingness of their fairy godmother, agency staff patched together an approach to salvage the situation and tried to recoup the gifts the agency had received the previous time.
In this case the agency recovered well under pressure. Personalized letters were drafted and signed just days before the fairy godmother went on summer holiday. The problem with any last-minute approach, however, is that it does not take maximum advantage of the opportunity available. In this case fundraisers had little time to analyze the previous gifts and the donors or to separate out the major prospects and prepare individual strategies for each of them. They could have solved this problem with a readily available visual overview of their fundraising plan. If they had nailed it to the wall and regularly referred to it, upcoming giving milestones for donors and contributions they were counting on would not have come as a surprise.
Fundraisers need visual checklists of tasks to complete. Most fundraisers need to keep in contact with many different funding sources, for example, so a schedule of donor and prospect contacts is very useful. Completing the exercises in this book will help you create an overview plan that will be available to your whole development team. This picture of your fundraising operation will help ensure that all your fundraising activities will get attention when they need it and not be forgotten. In Chapter Twelve, we go over how to make your fundraising plan visual, because when you can see the plan, it is easier to prioritize what needs doing and when.
With an overview plan in place, you can create lists of the major ways you get funds for your organization and add them to the plan framework. Specific fundraising activities and donor groups can become headings for mini-plans, with steps specified to achieve particular objectives. Without these mini-plans it's easy to lose track of important details about how you are going to raise the money you need and from whom.
Track Progress Toward Your Goal
The planning and scheduling techniques we go over in this book are tools to keep you organized, but as great a benefit is the flexibility you gain. By checking the progress of your fundraising plan you get critical feedback. (And if the plan is an icon on your computer screen or prominently placed on your wall, you can easily spot-check it.) Monitoring your plan keeps you in touch with reality. You can see areas that are lagging and zero in on them. You can produce regular status reports for key fundraising participants such as board members and staff. A plan by its very presence permits analysis of comparisons. As a result you are flexible; you can quickly respond to changing conditions, go after new prospects, alter appeals, or make any other necessary mid-campaign adjustments smoothly.
What Happens When There Is No Planning?
One of the problems with not planning is that you can lose confidence. Without a plan, obstacles may not be identified until they are fully developed and temporary dead ends can seem like the real thing. You can even fall prey to the myth that "there's no money out there for us." For over twenty years a friend of ours has been running a terrific big brother-type sports program for inner-city kids. When he doesn't have enough money from membership fees to meet his budget, he borrows and begs contributions and in-kind gifts from local stores and friends. He explained to us that a number of years ago he attended a meeting sponsored by a large foundation for nonprofits and prospective donors to share interests and concerns. He came away feeling disenfranchised and with the impression that "there is no money for us here. We don't fit in."
Receiving rejection letters in response to your appeal for support can have a similar effect. They can make you feel that there isn't any money out there, or at least not for your organization. The hidden assumption in that feeling is that the methods you tried covered every opportunity. However, the process by which generous contributions reach worthy causes is not that simple. Fundraising is somewhat like finding an apartment in a city without classified ads or real estate brokers. You might walk up and down twenty blocks and not find any vacancies, but that wouldn't mean there weren't any available. You might not be trying the right route. You have to try as many as you need to, until you get that apartment. Similarly, a failure to expand your funding base may simply mean that the methods you've tried haven't worked. That doesn't mean there aren't other methods that will.
Though our friend managed to operate his program successfully for over twenty years, it wasn't until he developed an annual fundraising plan that he learned how to communicate effectively with people who weren't already familiar with his program in order to gain their support. After he went through the same steps described in this book, his sports program received its first grant, increased scholarships, and added an academic assistance component. Now this vital, active community group is ready and eager to tackle other prospective funders. It's amazing how a taste of fundraising success builds confidence.
Eight Specific Ways Planning Boosts Fundraising Results
There are at least eight specific ways that planning can improve your fundraising results:
1. Planning prepares the organization for the long haul. Fundraising is a long-term process that requires continual effort. It doesn't happen overnight. Planning recognizes that. Don't begin a cultivation effort to recruit or solicit donors if you aren't in it for the long haul. Once you have started this process, don't drop it midway. A gift from a contributor represents a beginning. When you have got a donor's support, it is as important to schedule cultivation activities with that donor as it is to approach another prospective donor for an initial contribution. Your best prospect for a gift is someone who has already made a donation to your organization, your worthy cause. So don't ignore your active donors!
2. Planning helps you thoroughly research prospective donors. Schedule the time to put together a profile on each major prospect. To find the information, check the research tools listed in Chapter Eight and learn to use the on-line services described in the Appendix. Look at prospects from the standpoint of their personal lifestyles and activities and their business activities. Circulate their names on a confidential list to your development committee. Find out if someone affiliated with your organization has a personal or business connection or is able to add prospect information to what you have gathered.
3. Planning can make individuals a top priority in your fundraising. Almost 90 percent of philanthropic contributions are made by individuals. Foundations and corporations may look attractive. They have the contributions budgets, but individuals give away far more. As your top prospects, they deserve to be the subject of specific plans. Putting individuals first does not take away from the importance of foundation and corporate support, but remember to keep the facts straight: foundations and corporations contribute 9 percent and 6 percent of total giving, respectively ("Giving USA 1998," p. 22).
4. Planning takes into account the people already in your camp. Who supports you? Give those people your attention. If you put on concerts, for example, check your subscriber list, your ticket buyers, and others who benefit from your activities. Because they know you, these people are your prime prospects. Solicit your organization's lawyer, accountant, and everyone else it does business with, including the local restaurant your audience and staff frequent. And don't forget your volunteers. Ninety percent of individuals who volunteer for a nonprofit also contribute financially to it (Hodgkinson and Weitzman, 1994, p. 30).
5. Planning encourages you to use every contact you have. In fundraising, nothing takes the place of personal contact. Being asked to give by someone you know and respect has a powerful effect; in fact, in our opinion, it is the most significant factor that leads to higher giving levels. So before soliciting a prospective major donor, plan to find someone who supports your worthy cause and who also has a personal relationship with the prospect. Ask your organization's board members, staff, and lawyer. Ask friends and clergy. In short, ask anyone connected to your worthy cause. Ask your contact to introduce you to the donor and, if possible, to make the gift request with you.
6. Planning helps you put your best foot forward. People like to support a winner. Appeals that say, in effect, "We're in dire straits; we can't meet our operating budget," will make people question the effectiveness and efficiency of your organization. Put your best foot forward by giving people positive reasons for supporting your project. What are the hopes and dreams of your worthy cause? Prepare a communications piece that shares these hopes and dreams with your donors; then let donors know why you are uniquely qualified to realize these goals.
7. Planning can turn rejection into opportunity. Being turned down can lead to a productive talk between you and your prospect about the prospect's interests. If you are prepared and can remain positive during discussions with prospects about their concerns and their initial decision not to fund your project, you may discover areas of common interest and begin building a relationship. And that relationship can eventually lead to a major gift.
8. Planning ensures that everyone gets treated as a prospective donor. People who have benefited directly from your worthy cause are not your only prospects. Anyone who shares a sense of urgency about your group's mission is a likely donor. Keep a lookout for these prospects!
Excerpted from The Fundraising Planner by TERRY SCHAFF & DOUG SCHAFF Copyright © 1999 by John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.