Feeling behind because it’s already February and you haven’t nailed down your entire fundraising plan for the year yet?
Don’t worry! You’re not alone.
During January, while the rest of the world is focused on their fresh, inspired plans for the new year, those of us in annual fundraising are still feverishly wrapping up our year-end campaign, which certainly doesn’t end on December 31st!
There are gifts trickling in that need to be processed, donors to thank, campaign wrap-up emails to write, and stats to calculate — not to mention a well-deserved rest day (or two) to enjoy!
That essentially wipes out January for most of us.
By the time February rolls around, we’re often left feeling that we are already miles behind!
Instead of struggling to jump right back on that hamster wheel, let’s make February (and even March) our time to step back, collect our thoughts, reflect on the past year, and plan for the year ahead.
Here’s how to get started crafting your annual fundraising plan…
Find two or three days (not necessarily consecutive) that you’ll dedicate to planning your annual fundraising activities for the year ahead. Do your best to limit interruptions during that established time.
Remember, the primary goal of this process is to document your plan in writing.
Writing down your plan forces you to clarify which activities you intend to implement, determine when each activity should be completed, and consider how much time to budget for each project.
Most importantly, compiling your priorities into a written plan constitutes a commitment to accomplishing them.
Let’s get started!
Task 1: Conduct Your Annual Donor Review
First, you’ll want to take stock of changes in your donor base over the last 12 months. This means conducting your annual donor review.
During the annual donor review, you’ll calculate important metrics such as donor retention and attrition rates; identify key donors who lapsed during the previous year (who you’ll want to work hard to get back); compare your results to the year before; and understand what’s missing from your program and where to make improvements.
Task 2: Pick your priority fundraising “test project.”
Based on what you learned during your annual donor review, identify the major “leaks” in your fundraising program and plan some new tactics to plug them up.
Which segments of your donor base could most benefit from some targeted communications or engagement activities?
For example, do you need to ramp up efforts to encourage first-time donors to make a second gift? Do you have an action plan to inspire event attendees to become annual donors? Perhaps you need a personal touch to bring your lapsed donors back.
Even if you need to do all of these things, settle on just one segment as your initial focus. Then brainstorm one or two manageable activities towards your priority project. As you design these activities, think about how you’ll measure their contribution to your fundraising success.
Task 3: Create a targeted communications plan for each donor segment.
In addition to the priority segment you identified in step 2, what other segments should receive targeted communications?
Start by making a list of all the annual fundraising-related communications and activities you intend to implement over the course of the year. These may include a year-end campaign (broken down into individual activities if possible), spring campaign, other targeted appeals, newsletters, e-news, annual report, and any major annual fundraising events or donor cultivation activities.
Identify which segments will recieve each communication piece or participate in a particular activity on your list. These segments might include prospective donors, first-time donors, lapsed donors, mid-range donors, etc…
Create a chart that indicates the communications each segment will receive during the year.
[For an in-depth explanation of these donor segments, check out the Intro to Annual Fundraising Short-Course available on-demand in the Annual Giving Resource Center. You can sign up for free access here.]
Task 4: Create a month-by-month annual fundraising calendar
In a spreadsheet or on a separate sheet of paper, create a column labeled with each month of the year. Under each month, list each activity or communication under the month they’ll ideally take place.
Next, consider the best time to incorporate the activities that are associated with your priority test project from Step 2.
Combine each task into your plan!
Document each of these tasks above and incorporate them together into your 2016 annual plan!