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How do I create an Annual Fundraising Plan?

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Planning makes it better!

Does your fundraising always seem to be in crisis mode? Are you always running behind and getting surprised by your next fundraising deadline? Chances are you need to develop an annual fundraising plan. A fundraising plan will bring order and peace to your life and enable you to invest your energy where you think it will be most effective.

An integrated fundraising plan should give you the 10,000 foot view of all of your annual fundraising activities. This will enable you plan your resources and respond quickly to new opportunities.

You can organize your annual plan several different ways. All are good depending on what you are trying to accomplish. Each gives you a slightly different but useful perspective.

Annual Fundraising Duties and Objectives

Accountability is important, especially in larger organizations. You can set expectations with your staff and track their performance with the following type of plan. It breaks down your fundraising plan by fundraising type, staff responsibility, and funding targets.

This type of plan allows you to assign activities and goals to the fundraising staff who are responsible. You see that this plan doesn’t track every activity throughout the year. Instead, it gives you an overview of the different kinds of fundraising that will be taking place with specific information about each program. The different colors identify different categories of donors and sub-colors indicate when more than one type of approach will be used.

***Click to download this Simple Annual Fundraising Plan in Excel format.

This simple fundraising plan can be adapted to keep your fundraising programs organized.
This simple fundraising plan can be adapted to keep your fundraising programs organized. This Simple Fundraising Plan includes goals like financial and soft targets, as well as timing and key responsibilities.

So, for instance, you’ll be soliciting individual gifts through several different programs that include a board solicitation, direct mail, major gifts, online giving, etc. All the gifts come from individuals, but are cultivated in different ways.

Annual Fundraising Calendar

The Annual Fundraising Calendar provides an overview of all of the different styles of fundraising you will be using each month. This is a useful format because it enables you to see opportunities that you might have missed otherwise. Look at the two samples below.

Small Annual Fund Calendar
This simplified Annual Fund Drive might work for smaller agencies

This plan is a very simple one for an organization that focuses on direct mail fundraising. It separates mailings that are trying to acquire new donors, cultivate existing donors, and reactivate lapsed donors. The organization does fewer acquisition mailings because they tend to cost money rather than make money up front. Note that it includes sending out thank you notes as an ongoing cultivation mailing.

Annual Fund Calendar
The Annual Fund Calendar helps you plan for the year.

This plan is for a much larger organization that runs an integrated annual campaign. You see that it uses everything from mass media approaches like radiothons and billboards to personal major gift solicitations. This organization has either multiple fundraising staff or very dedicated volunteers to be able to make all of these different fundraising programs possible.

A plan like this can be expanded to include a narrative that explains what activities each row refers to and the person responsible for those parts of the plan. For example, your fundraising grid might be followed by language like this:

  • The direct mail acquisition will consist of two mailings to rented lists and focus on our children’s programs. Bill is responsible for writing the letter and researching the list. Mary will handle printing and mailing.
  • The bulletin acquisition campaign will run weekly ads in the bulletin suggesting that parishioners start making their monthly gifts through recurring online gifts. Peter will be responsible for changing the ad to reflect the liturgical season and getting the information to the bulletin printers.

Annual Fundraising Schedule

A third way to organize your fundraising plan is to develop a list of major deadlines or milestones and the date by which they must be accomplished. This is especially important if you’re working with volunteers, doing events, or planning a large integrated campaign.

Organizing an Annual Campaign is a year round job if you’re doing it right, and good events take 9-12 months to plan. If you have a lot of different events or hundreds of grants into this calendar, trying to put them into a single ongoing schedule can become to heavy to be useful. Put the major deadlines that require the work of more than one of the staff or volunteers in the organization

This plan shows the monthly preparations needed for a parish stewardship renewal campaign. You can see that it gives you deadlines for major accomplishments in order to be ready for the actual stewardship appeal at the end of the year. Having a calendar in this format can help you to stay on track with your activities so that you are able to handle any complications or problems (which WILL happen) peacefully.

  • March 15th – Meet with stewardship team – pick theme
  • March – May – Data analysis and materials preparation
  • July 10th – Final Material and Data finalized
  • August 1 – Stewardship brochure mailed to Parishioners
  • August 7 – Ministry Fair
  • August 14 – Testimony Sunday
  • August 21 – Commitment Sunday
  • August 28 – Follow up letter sent
  • September 5 – Final ask mailed
  • September 20 – Stewardship totals announce – Parish Celebration
  • September 28 – Wrap up meeting, recommendation for next year

You can also create an annual schedule for each one of your major events/fundraising pushes that stands alone so staff and volunteers working on the program don’t get confused by seeing deadlines for other fundraising programs. This kind of schedule of deadlines is invaluable for coordinating the activities of volunteers.

Accountability is key!

Each of these three types of Annual Fundraising plans have their own strengths and provide a certain kind of valuable information. You should be able to plan your year and then look back at the end of each month and see that you have accomplished what you have planned. If you have not, your monthly accountability check-in will give you an opportunity to change plans or make adjustments.

For your convenience, the links below provide you with Excel versions of the Simple Fundraising Plan and the Fundraising Calendar.

 Sample Fundraising Calendar


Looking for more articles on key fundraising concepts and tools? Try these:

Check out The Fundraiser’s Playbook for a full list of fundraising articles.


Would you like to learn more about raising money for Church and Ministry? Check out Letters From The Almoner, now available on Amazon.com.

Image courtesy of Paul Downey, via Creative Commons License, some rights reserved.

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