Developing a Great End of the Year Fundraising Strategy

Featured Intermediate, Fundraising, Intermediate

By Jeremy Reis

Developing a great end of the year fundraising strategy can mean the difference between success and failure with your biggest fundraising quarter of the year. Today, you’re going to learn how to develop a strategy – not just any strategy, but a GREAT one to guide you to success. You’re going to build this great strategy using my six step process:

  1. Evaluate the current situation
  2. Identify what’s important
  3. Assess what you need to achieve
  4. Formulate ideas
  5. Build tactical plan
  6. Execute the tactics

Using this process to develop a strategic plan will result in a solid plan for a successful fundraising quarter.

1. Evaluate the current situation

The first step in building a great year end fundraising strategy is to evaluate your current situation. Look back at the past three years of fundraising metrics and answer these questions:

  1. How much money have you raised?
  2. Which channels did the income come from?
  3. In each of the channels, what were the sources of the funds? For example, in digital, how much revenue came from Google Adwords? How much from email?
  4. What worked or didn’t work in the past three years? Did you write it down? 😉

Reviewing the past couple of years provides you clues into what has worked in the past and helps inform your decisions moving forward. It isn’t a complete picture as there are new techniques and campaigns you’ll develop for this quarter that weren’t even an option in the past. For example, you may initiate Facebook fundraising campaigns on the platform that weren’t available in years past.

After you’re reviewed the history of your end of the year fundraising, let’s answer a few questions about what’s currently happening:

  1. What are the current planned campaigns for this quarter? There are times where a campaign was planned before the strategy was developed. Though not ideal, you may be so far down the path of execution that you need to work the campaign into your fundraising plan.
  2. What are the expectations for this quarter? Do you have financial goals that must be met?
  3. What are the gaps you have in your fundraising? Do you have a technology or system problem you need to account for?
  4. What are the assets you have on your side? Do you have a new peer-to-peer fundraising platform that you can use?
  5. What is the staffing situation? What is reasonable for you to achieve with the staff you have?

Answering these questions will help you document the current situation for your nonprofit and inform your strategic plan development.

2. Identify what’s important

We all have limited time, assets, resources, and people for this quarter. We can’t do it all, so we need to identify the most important events to focus on this quarter. The period immediately following Christmas, from December 26th through December 31st is the most important fundraising week of your year. For many organizations, the period immediately following Thanksgiving from Black Friday through Giving Tuesday is also important.

You may also have organizational expectations that must be part of your strategy such as an Advent Calendar or a 12 days of Christmas campaign. You should account for these in your strategic plan.

To identify what’s important for your end of the year strategic plan, start making a list of the important dates and campaigns you know must be in your plan. These could include:

  1. World Food Day
  2. Thanksgiving
  3. Giving Tuesday
  4. Hanukkah
  5. Christmas
  6. Advent
  7. 12 Days of Christmas
  8. Thanksgiving Fundraising Dinner
  9. Christmas Toy Drive

These are just some of the examples of things you need to list that are important to your end of the year plan.

3. Assess what you need to achieve

If you haven’t had an opportunity yet, take a few minutes and develop your goals for the end of the year. Developing a list of goals is foundational to developing an excellent fundraising plan. All of your strategies need to point to a goal. I’ve written separately on how to create your end of the year goals, be sure to read that article.

Let’s develop a list of sample goals we’ll use as an example to build our strategic plan:

  1. Raise $3 million from all channels (increase of 8% from last year).
  2. Generate 1,000 new donors.
  3. Add 15,000 new email address leads to the file.
  4. Host a successful major donor dinner and increase revenue from previous year by 10%.

Writing down your goals is an essential part of developing a strategic plan that you will actually achieve. If you don’t have goals, how will you measure success?

4. Formulate ideas

We’ve defined what’s important and the goals we’d like to achieve this end of the year quarter. Now it’s time to brainstorm ideas for what you’re going to do this quarter. This is going to look different for each nonprofit, but you’ll need to create ideas to achieve each of your goals.

For example, in the last section we developed a goal to raise $3 million from all channels. We might break that down into these ideas:

  1. Create a plan for Giving Tuesday and build a month long campaign that includes influencers, email, and peer to peer giving.
  2. Build out an email plan for this quarter to raise $1.5 million.
  3. Launch a 12 days of Christmas giving campaign to generate 1,000 new donors and $250,000 in income.

The ideas you generate feed into one or more of the goals you set in the previous section. You may develop more ideas than you have time to accomplish – that’s ok! You don’t have to do them all. Get the ideas developed and when we build the tactical plan, we’ll identify which of the ideas we can comfortably accomplish.

At this point in your end of the year strategic fundraising plan development, you aren’t putting too much detail into the ideas, just a short description to expand in the next step.

5. Build tactical plan

The tactics are the action steps you will take to achieve your goals. Using the ideas you formulated in the previous step, identify the ones you want to pursue and begin building out the tactics necessary to accomplish the idea.

For example, let’s say you brainstormed an idea for a 12 days of giving Christmas campaign. There are a number of things you’ll need to do to accomplish this idea:

  1. Identify the dates that will be important to your campaign. These might include a date to send a preview email, the dates of the 12 days of Christmas.
  2. Identify what types of content you’ll need for each day. This may include a press release for the campaign, sample social media posts for partners, blog posts, emails, social media posts, or videos.
  3. Who will be involved with the campaign? Will you involve influencers? Beneficiaries? Donors? The Board? Staff? List all of the people who will be involved and what action they will be expected to take.
  4. What is the budget for the campaign?
  5. What is the advertising plan for this idea? Social media ads? Google Adwords? Radio ads? There are a lot of options.
  6. What channels will be involved? Will you send a postcard promoting the 12 day of Christmas campaign? Will you use telemarketing?
  7. Who will be responsible for each step in the tactical plan? Who will do the writing, creative, or other needs?
  8. How will you measure this campaign idea?

For each idea, answer questions like these to build out your tactical plan.

6. Execute the tactics

The final step in your strategic plan is to execute your tactics. This may seem like the most difficult step, but in reality, if you planned well, this task is the easiest. As you look at your tactical plan, execute each step, measure the results, and tweak your tactics along the way to meet the goals you identified in step 3.

If you have a team, I recommend identifying a champion for each tactic and allow that person to see it through to completion. This helps empower your team and lifts a lot of the day to day work off of you so you can focus on the overall strategic plan. There will be mistakes. Correct them along the way and your staff will grow and you’ll end up in a better place with a more accomplished team when January rolls around.

Developing a great strategic plan for the end of the year will be a guide you can use to execute tactics and break down the large task ahead of you. When you look at all you need to accomplish this quarter, it can be overwhelming. Creating a strategic plan helps you break it into bite-sized tasks that you can do!


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