The Ultimate Guide To Planning Your Fundraising Strategy

Do you want to create a sustainable fundraising strategy to ensure your organization has the most successful—and least stressful—year yet? These five tips from nonprofit leaders will help you craft your plan.


At the start of a new year, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed by a busy calendar. Setting your fundraising priorities early on helps your organization avoid burnout and cultivate a sustainable fundraising strategy.

While there is no one-size-fits-all approach to fundraising, this guide will help you evaluate your organization’s capacity and needs to create a personalized plan for the year ahead.

Here are five time-tested tips from nonprofit leaders around the world:

1. Know your goals.

Setting annual goals will help your organization prioritize what’s most important for the year ahead. “A successful plan starts with a compelling need and an agreed target. It requires careful planning to ensure all the resources available are going to add harmonically to the plan,” Francisco Alcala from HOME Storytellers said. When it comes to fundraising, the phrase “quality over quantity” holds true. The success of each fundraising opportunity you participate in is more important than the number of events, so focus on where you shine.

Guiding questions to prioritize your fundraising goals:

2. Know your resources.

Outlining your nonprofit’s financial, organizational, and staffing resources will help you focus more on supporting your community—and less on fundraising during the year ahead. To keep momentum going during giving seasons, Sharon Runge from Kenya Connect maps out everything beforehand.

“In addition to emails and social media posts, we send ‘snail mail’ letters to past donors with personal notes. As a result, we continue telling our story with twice a week direct appeals on our social media. We will also be sending out regular e-news blasts and donation requests. This is all mapped out on our planning document,” Sharon said.

Guiding questions to map out your resources:

  • What is your budget (both in time and finances) for preparation, marketing, and other promotional activities?
  • What promotional tools and marketing tactics have worked best for you in the past?
  • Do you have time to participate in training sessions, recruit volunteers, or find additional support to prepare you for particular fundraisers or other events?

3. Know your team.

Executing a sustainable fundraising strategy requires a collective effort from all team members, including both full-time staff members and volunteers. To ensure all hands are on deck, The Better Days Greece team divides their goals among their team members at the beginning of each year.

“We put a target for each person in the organization. So if we wanted to get 30 new monthly donors, we distributed the goal between all of us so each one would get five new monthly donors,” Daniel Larios from Better Days Greece said. Task delegation can lighten individual workloads while also outlining clear next steps to grow your organization.

Guiding questions to help rally your team:

  • How many paid team members or volunteers does your organization have to focus on fundraising efforts?
  • What is the operative and administrative capacity of your team? How much room does this leave for fundraising capacities?
  • Who on your team is best suited for each goal, and how will you need to rearrange responsibilities to help them work toward this goal sustainably?

4. Know your donors.

There are many ways to tailor your fundraising approach to your organization’s specific donor community. Lisa Lyons from Educate the Children says their nonprofit meets their donors where they are.

“I would suggest taking advantage of local media by, for example, issuing a press release; writing a letter to the editor of the local newspaper; or engaging board members to mention it (and writing them a short script) at civic and community events,” Lisa said.

Evaluating who your donors are can help you direct your fundraising efforts in the most effective ways to gain their attention and support.

Guiding questions to understand your donors:

  • What is the average donation size you receive from your donors?
  • Where do your donors come from? Are they mainly based in your community, nationally, or abroad?
  • What is the best way to engage with your donor network, and how often do you typically communicate with them?

5. Know your limits.

Acknowledging your limitations early on can help your team plan and get creative with your sustainable fundraising strategy.

“Targeting the same people over and over again to give funds can get tiresome,” Martha Sunda from Childline Kenya said. “We consider asking the donors who have participated in earlier fundraisers to talk to one or two of their friends and colleagues on our behalf to encourage them to give. This gives them time to ‘cool off’ while still remaining positively impactful.”

It can be difficult to turn down a fundraising opportunity, but recognizing your nonprofit’s limitations will help your organization and community more in the long run. You can then make the most of the opportunities you choose to participate in.

Guiding questions to acknowledge your limits:

  • How long does it normally take you to prepare for a fundraising event?
  • How much time do you typically need in between fundraising pushes to reset and begin reaching out to donors again?
  • How many fundraising events have you participated in previously? Did you have room to do more? Did you feel that you could have done them more successfully if you did fewer?

These are just a few ways to start thinking about a sustainable fundraising strategy for the year ahead based on the tried-and-true approaches from other nonprofit leaders. By asking yourself these questions and evaluating your organization’s capacities and needs, you can set yourself, your team, and your community up for success!

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Featured Photo: Transformative Education for Refugees in Zimbabwe by Education Matters
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