Don’t Wish. Plan.

When it comes to fundraising, are you guilty of wishing instead of planning?

Lots of intelligent, experienced professionals are. They fall into the trap of simply believing that they’ll raise more money, year over year, just because that’s what they hope will happen. You’ll hear them say things like this:

  • “We raised $200,000 last year, so we should be able to increase that by 10 percent this year.”
  • “That event brought in $100,000 last year, so let’s increase the goal to $135,000.”
  • “Last year they came in as a $10,000 sponsor, so let’s ask them for $15,000.”

Now, maybe all those wonderful things will just happen. But unless you have a step-by-step plan for making them happen … then you’re not really planning; you’re just wishing.

Here’s the antidote:

  1. Carve out time with your team to go through every name on your donor list. (Or sponsor list. Or event attendee list! You get the idea.)
  2. For each donor, look at their past giving, then make an educated guess of what they will give this year. Are they excited to get more involved? Or are they running out of steam or moving on to other priorities? Write that number down.
  3. Next, ask yourself what the next step is with that donor. Is it a phone call, or a face-to-face meeting? Do they want to take a tour of your facilities? Whatever that action item is, write it down.

Once you’ve taken those steps, you will have a better sense of what you will raise, because you will have a projection based on reality and not imagination. And you’ll also have your blueprint for how to get there. Assign and schedule those action items for each donor. That’s the beginning of your plan for the year!

2015 study published in the Stanford Social Innovation Review found that taking the time to develop a plan for fundraising is, remarkably, the clearest predictor of a nonprofit’s success. In fact, organizations with a plan perform better even if they stick that plan into a drawer and never look at it again.

So quit wishing. Wishes are for birthdays! Sit down with your team and plan, instead.