Creating a Fundraising Plan: 7 Tips for Small Nonprofits

Written by
Wayne Elsey

Creating a Fundraising Plan: 7 Tips for Small Nonprofits

Written by
Wayne Elsey

Small and startup nonprofits many times operate without a fundraising plan. And many who do have an idea, do not include all of the things they should add. Just “winging it” with your fundraising won’t cut it for long!

Create a fundraising plan that will help your nonprofit stay on track for all your fundraising needs and hit all the right marks on your budget.

This plan will make it easier to fundraise year-round for your nonprofit. Write everything out and have a copy available in your office so that you can refer to the plan throughout the year.

Your fundraising plan will help make your nonprofit, school, or PTO fundraising ideas more successful in their execution.

The absolute must-have elements to include in your fundraising plan are as follows:

  1. Create a goal.
  2. Define your mission.
  3. Discuss fundraising methods.
  4. Consider your sources.
  5. Plan a budget.
  6. Design a timeline.
  7. Evaluate your work.

Get organized with these 7 tips to create a sustainable fundraising plan for nonprofits!


1. Create a goal.

Consider the goals you have for this upcoming year. What do you want to accomplish? How much money will it take to achieve it? The answers will become a significant part of your fundraising goal.

The other major financial part of your fundraising goal is the amount you will need for your annual fund. Your annual fund includes the money that you need to continue the core operations of your nonprofit.

You may consider making a list of both nonfinancial objectives as well as your nonprofit’s monetary goal. Example non-financial objectives include:

  • Find 100 animals new homes from an animal shelter.
  • Host 4 stewardship events to build relationships with volunteers.
  • Add 5 more regular volunteers to the team.

Try to make your objectives quantifiable so that they are easily measured. They should all help you achieve a larger goal of the organization.

Your financial goal will be the focus of your fundraising. This goal should account for all those objectives you want to reach.



2. Define your mission.

Any time that you are making plans or organizing something within your organization, keep your mission in mind.

While you are writing your fundraising plan, make your nonprofit’s mission statement the first page in the plan. This way, each time you look at it, you are reminded of your mission.

Your mission statement communicates the core issues of your organization. That statement will address:

  • Who you are trying to help and the issue at hand.
  • What you will do to address the matter and your organization’s role.
  • How your work will have broader implications in the world.

These three ideas will help you begin writing. Making sure everyone in the organization can convey these thoughts will ensure that everyone is in line with your mission through each step of your fundraising plan.

In addition to helping your organization, writing out the mission statement also saves you time and energy later on in the execution phase.

Remember, potential supporters will want to know what drives the organization before they give. They want to know their money is going to a worthy cause with a strong leadership team. Writing the mission statement at the beginning will make it easier to communicate with supporters and potential donors down the line.


3. Discuss fundraising methods.

There are so many ways you can raise money from donors for your nonprofit organization. Some fundraising ideas are well suited for larger groups, but many others are designed specifically for smaller nonprofits.

Don’t think that just because you’re a part of a small organization, that you can’t raise big money!

Try looking at fundraising events designed for schools or other programs to see some that are also adequate on the scale of a smaller nonprofit. For instance, check out the school fundraising ideas guide by Funds2Orgs.

You may choose to raise money through online or in-person activities. Online activities you may choose to get involved with are:

These online campaigns will help raise money from online donors. Try promoting them on social media for an extra boost!

In-person events bring you face-to-face with your donors, which is a very personal interaction that can help you create relationships. Some of these events might include things such as:

  • Shoe drive fundraisers.
  • Auctions.
  • Craft fairs.
  • Raffles.
  • Used book sales.

While there are countless ideas for fundraising events and campaigns, you only need to find the ones that will work best for your organization and align well with your mission.

Outline these fundraising ideas in your fundraising plan along with all the materials, spaces, and other resources you may need to execute them.


4. Consider your sources.

The primary source of money for nonprofits, especially those that are small- to mid-sized, comes directly from individual donors.

There are three kinds of donations that you should concern yourself with as a nonprofit organization:

  • Large donations from major donors.
  • Medium-level donations.
  • Individual small donations.

Large donations are a great help if you are conducting a capital campaign. When you are looking for large donations, conduct prospect research to find major donors.

Prospect research consists of checking the background of potential donors to see their major wealth and philanthropic indicators. These indicators give insight as to how likely a person is to donate and how much they may be able to donate.

Medium and individual smaller donations can be collected from different fundraisers such as crowdfunding campaigns posted to your website or social media.

While fundraising, keep in mind the audience you are trying reach. It may change the message of your fundraising campaign. It’s especially important when fundraising to appeal for your annual fund.

Your annual fund can be tricky because it helps you with everyday matters as opposed to something that might seem more tangible to donors.


5. Plan a budget.

Your budget is where your fundraising goals, objectives, methods, and planned events all come together.

Keeping your mission in mind (as always) begin your budget by:

  • Planning out the necessary annual fund savings.
  • Itemizing your objectives and the things for which you will need to pay.
  • Deciding how you will appeal to which donors.
  • Estimating how much you can earn from each fundraising idea.

If your budget seems a little overwhelming, there are some ways you can cut back and save a little bit more.

For example, ask volunteers to help you host events throughout the year. Asking for volunteers saves money staffing events and might lead to some extra money through volunteer grant programs.

Through corporate philanthropy programs, many companies will financially match the amount of time an employee gives to a nonprofit organization with volunteer grants.

Tell your volunteers about these opportunities with a matching gifts database. These databases show the parameters for these types of corporate philanthropy programs.

For instance, the 360 MatchPro’s database shows volunteer grants and matching gifts programs for any company that’s registered on its database.



6. Design a timeline.

Ultimately, your timeline and how you want to schedule everything is up to your nonprofit. However, we have a few recommendations for how to set this up.

Plan your campaigns and budgets so your organization will have adequate financial backing all year long.

Keep in mind that some periods during the year are better for collecting donations than others.

The different times of the year to keep an eye on for donations are:

  • Giving Tuesday. #GivingTuesday is the Tuesday directly after Thanksgiving. It was designed as a global day of giving to encourage donations through social media.
  • The end of the year. The final quarter of the year is the time of year people are trying to get their last-minute donations in for tax deductions. Therefore, there is usually a spike in donations.
  • Whenever something else directly pertains to your nonprofit. If there is something in the news that is related to your nonprofit’s mission, people will be paying attention and will be more likely to support your cause.

Actively promote your organization and opportunities to give during these times.

Try a social media campaign for the week leading up to Giving Tuesday. These platforms are where the movement began, so try bringing it back there to the core to appeal to your audience.

Also, remind your audience of their tax deductions when the end of the year comes around.

Save some of the extra money from these times for the summer. Summer is traditionally one of the hardest times for donations, so plan accordingly!


7. Evaluate your work.

After your budget and everything is created for the coming year, you’re not quite done!

Keep records of your executed financial plan and how well everything is going. See how close you have gotten to your estimated fundraising totals for each campaign you hosted.

It’s okay if your estimations were not perfect!

Your first fundraising plan is not likely to be perfectly executed. There is no reason to fret. When things don’t go exactly how you thought they would take note of it.

You can plan to take these notes by:

  • Leaving a few pages in the back of the plan for more extensive note-taking.
  • Keeping a highlighter to highlight the budgeting items that did not go according to plan.
  • Place a blank line next to each budget item so you can fill in the actual amount raised or spent.

If you find another method that works better for you, don’t shy away from it. Keeping notes on the budget will make it much easier to review later on.

When it is time to make a new fundraising plan for next year, look over your old ideas.

Old plans will give you insight as to how to plan for the coming year. Eventually, you will begin seeing trends, and your budgeting will become more and more accurate.


Your nonprofit has a great mission! You do great work and should make the most of it. Don’t make the mistake of not appropriately planning your finances. These 7 tips will help you organize an effective fundraising plan for your nonprofit.

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