Mistake #5 – Not Having an Annual Fundraising Plan

The fifth and final mistake I see many nonprofits make is not having an annual fundraising plan. They set their budget goals, but don’t actually break down those goals into some kind of action plan. In fact, I see lots of organizations that set a budget goal that’s higher than last year, but then proceed to do everything the same way as the year before. Can you guess the results?

Some don’t have an annual fundraising plan because they are too busy and they think it takes too much time. Others don’t have one because the only plans they have seen are dozens of pages long and don’t get used once they are finished. Still others don’t have a plan because they don’t know where to start.

I believe that you can take valuable time to write a concise and helpful plan with the right process. An annual fundraising plan forces you to think strategically, instead of just going through the motions. It also helps you to set a realistic budget since you have to show how you will achieve those numbers. A plan should encourage you to focus on individual donors and not just grants and events. In fact, a good annual plan will include an analysis of current special events and determine which ones should continue (see mistake #4 blog post). Finally, an annual fundraising plan should determine who is responsible for what and by when. That means YOUR name cannot appear next to every line of the plan!

“Okay, okay, I’m convinced!” Now what?

A simple annual fundraising plan should involve the following 6 steps:

1 – What We Know: Reconnect to your vision, mission and values and complete a quick SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis.

2 – What We Can Improve: Analyze your current fundraising strategies. What is their strategic purpose? Acquisition, Retention, and/or Upgrade? Analyze your special events looking at all the costs and benefits (beyond revenue and expense).

3 – Where We’re Going: Now you’re ready to set some fundraising goals using the information you have already reviewed. Make sure you set goals for a diverse range of funding sources including individual giving, grants, events, corporate, and earned income. You might also have goals for volunteers and development infrastructure that will directly impact fundraising goals.

4 – How We’ll Do It: This is the step where you break down those big goals into objectives. Don’t get into ridiculous detail, just figure out the big steps and how to make your goals achievable. These should be measurable.

5 – Who Will Do It and When: Now the team (even if the team is volunteers) determines who will be responsible for which goals/objectives and what deadline should be associated with each one.

6 – Implementation: The time you spend on this process certainly won’t be worth it if you don’t implement the plan! Some people like to put the goals and objectives into a spreadsheet document that can be shared and updated easily. Others like to break it down into objectives that need to be completed this month, this quarter, and this year – then move items up as they are complete. Whichever way works best for you, using some type of document will not only keep you on track, it will make it easier to complete your plan next year.

So there you have it! You can avoid the 5 biggest mistakes nonprofits make if you can:
• Focus on individual contributions
• Ask volunteers for money
• Value existing donors
• Analyze every event, every year
• Have an annual fundraising plan

As always, I am here to answer your questions or help you avoid these mistakes. Visit the “contact” page to connect with me directly.

Posted in Fundraising Mistakes

Mistake #4 – Getting in a Rut with Special Events

“We have to start planning the gala for next year!” These are dreaded words. Many people I know who work in fundraising can’t stand special events. Others see them as a necessary evil. Some of the reasons fundraisers don’t like special events include: they take too much time, they are the same thing every year (boring), and they don’t raise enough money. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

This is what getting in a rut with special events sounds like. When you do the same event every year because you “have to” do it, it turns out the same way as last year. How many organizations do you know who start a new event and call it the “First Annual…?” Why do we automatically assume that we should do every event every year? I want to challenge this assumption.

Why did your organization start a new event? What was the strategic purpose? Are you trying to just raise money, or bring in new donors? Are you trying to keep existing donors connecting with your mission, or introduce your mission to a new target audience? If you don’t know why or don’t remember why your organization started an event – ask yourself, why do we keep doing this event? Just reconnecting to or identifying a strategic purpose for the event will help you make decisions and get clear focus on your goals.

But don’t stop there. I firmly believe that every organization should do a special event analysis – every year – on every event. I am not talking about a revenue vs. expenses report, which is a necessity, but a full analysis of all the pros and cons to one specific event.

How much staff time did the event take?
Did we reach our target audience?
Did the event convey the right brand message for our organization?
Did we gain any new donors and did we engage those donors after the event? Did our vendors add to the experience or detract from it?
Did we have the right partnerships with our sponsors?

You can go through a similar process before starting a new event. Really question the strategic purpose. Will the new event have a different purpose or target audience than your existing events?

After asking these questions and more, you can decide as a group if you should have the event again next year. If you do the event again, you will start to see some clear opportunities for improvement. If you don’t do the event again, you will have some specific reasons why it wasn’t the right fit. Just realizing that you can decide whether to have the event can change your outlook.

Posted in Fundraising Mistakes

Mistake #3 – Finding New Donors

Now I’ve got your attention. How can finding new donors be a mistake? When you spend more time and money on finding those new donors than you spend on cultivating your existing donors.

Acquisition of new donors is always more expensive than cultivating the donors you have. Every organization needs to have opportunities for new donors to get involved, but what do you do with those donors once they have made a financial contribution? You need to actively communicate your impact on the world tell donors your story. If I make a donation, and then never hear from you again until you ask for another donation, I will soon forget why I was so inclined to give. After a contribution your donors should be hearing several more messages before they are asked to give again: gratitude for their involvement, information about the impact of your mission, and opportunities to learn more or get more involved.

Don’t assume that a donor who gave to you once will automatically give to you again. Don’t assume that a guest at your special event will come again next year if you haven’t communicated with them in any way other than “thanks for coming, see you next year!” And don’t assume that a donor who gave to you last year but not this year is no longer interested.

Okay, okay – now I am preaching to the choir. But we are all guilty of making these assumptions at some point. Cultivation is one of the best ways you can spend your time. Donors don’t want to just give away money, they want to invest it in their community to make a difference. If you treat a donation like a transaction instead of a relationship, they will look elsewhere.

Ask yourself this question: Am I focused on getting donors and raising money, or on building relationships that will result in donors feeling like a stakeholder because they care about what we do and want to invest in our success? Doing the latter will lead to creating a culture of philanthropy in your organization.

My next blog post will explore a mistake most of us can relate to: getting in a rut with special events.

Posted in Fundraising Mistakes