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How to Plan your Annual Fundraising Strategy

20 February, 2019

The new year is the perfect time to bring fresh ideas to your fundraising strategy. This year, challenge yourself and your charity to set high-reaching goals for your fundraising efforts and map out a plan to turn your goals into realities. A good strategy should be comprised of several key components, which often includes a specific fundraising goal, messaging and content strategy, a campaign method or initiative and a clear timeline. In this post, we dive into each of these components to share a few tips to plan your best fundraising strategy to date.

1. Set your goal.

One of the first tasks in planning your annual fundraising strategy is to set a fundraising goal. In other words, how much money would you like to raise this year? Plan to identify a specific amount. Keep in mind that this will be somewhat of a balancing act: Be sure to challenge yourself to raise as much money as possible, but also keep your expectations realistic, especially if this is one of your first formal fundraising efforts.

Take this opportunity to ask yourself big questions like, where is my charity at now with donations and fundraising? Where would I like it to be? Looking at your charity’s past performance across different campaigns will provide some helpful context to set financial goals.  What campaigns worked well? What campaigns could be improved?

There may be a scenario in which your key goal isn’t necessarily financial. Perhaps your fundraising goal is to grow your contact list of potential donors, for a later campaign. Either way, always strive to set challenging, yet manageable goals. One suggested framework to follow is SMART goals, which stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Results-Oriented and Time-bound. Setting clear (and SMART) goals early on will help ensure a more organised fundraising strategy, all year. Another benefit is that it will provide more robust data to measure the success and pacing of your campaign.

2. Determine your message.

Our next tip takes you back to the mission of your charity. What is your reason for operating? Who (or what) are you trying to serve and why? What sets you apart from other charities, or where might there be overlap with other organizations that focus on similar issues? All of these questions will help you determine the right messages to communicate to build connections with potential donors and encourage donations.

You should also identify whether you want to target individuals, communities, foundations, corporates or other groups, as your messaging will differ from one group to another. Charities Aid Foundation, for example, suggests asking these questions to help identify your supporters:

  • Who has given previously and what is their age, gender, location and profession?
  • What motivated donors to give in the past?
  • Who uses our services by volunteering or partnering with us? Could they become a donor?
  • Which corporates and trusts are interested in our work?
  • Which groups of people do we want to support us?
  • What relationships do we currently have, especially among key decision makers or leaders?
  • How could these relationships be leveraged in a fundraising strategy?

Another tip is to work closely with your marketing and communications staff when planning your fundraising strategy and identifying your donor base, as they’re likely to have a good grasp on what types of content or messaging resonates most with your potential and past donors.

3. Identify your fundraising methods.

This is where you can have a little fun! What initiatives will you use to attain your fundraising goals? Maybe you’ll host an event, sell charitable merchandise online, partner with a retailer or center your efforts around charity shops. Ideally, aim for a mix of methods to diversify your efforts and reach the broadest range of potential donors. A multi-pronged approach will also help you analyse what worked well (or what didn’t work so well) for subsequent campaigns.

You’ll also want to set goals for every campaign you run. These can be thought of as “sub-goals” as they all inform the financial goal that you established at the onset of your planning. These sub-goals should include information on the resources required for each campaign as well as estimates on how much you expect to raise from each effort.  

While setting clear and realistic goals is important, so is creativity! A memorable campaign is a successful campaign, and with so many charities competing for donor contributions, it’s critical to plan a strategy that inspires people to participate and makes it easy to do so, as well. Ask colleagues what has worked for them, or search for examples of successful fundraising strategies online.

For example, Royal British Legion ran a campaign in 2018 called Every pin tells a tale in which the charity launched an augmented reality (AR) app to share heroic stories from soldiers, pilots and nurses. The charity sold special limited-editions pins (made from shell fuses and earth from actual battlefields) that could be scanned with an AR app to access the stories. According to one source, the campaign was especially successful because it combined technology with history in a profoundly personal, interactive and moving way.

Credit: Royal British Legion

4. Establish a timeline (and stick to it).

Our last tip is all about timing. Once you’ve set a financial goal and identified your campaigns, determine the key dates and times associated with each campaign, throughout the year. Be sure to incorporate pre- and post-campaign promotional efforts to help get the most mileage out of your strategies. At a minimum, your timeline should include a start date, any milestone or event dates during the campaign and an end date (though some campaigns may intentionally be open-ended to run all year or for multiple calendar years).

Another proven strategy is to plan a timeline for a soft launch to your “star” supporters, which thanks them with a special sneak-preview of the campaign and lets you work out any potential bugs or fixes ahead of launching it to a wider or more public network.  

Lastly, before you launch your campaign, make sure that you’re set up to receive donations, test your systems and research any applicable rules or regulations you may need to adhere to.

We hope this post helps shed some light on the basics of planning an annual fundraising strategy this year. Keep in mind that there is no right or wrong campaign; your strategy will inevitably be as unique as your charity is!

We’d love to hear more about your vision and talk through the steps you plan to take. Chances are, we can offer some insight or examples and can also help you improve your campaigns with the perfect promotional products. Please get in touch with us today!

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