In fundraising, we spend a good amount of time talking about fundraising goals. But we often spend little to no time planning a calendar for how we are going to meet those goals. And, as French author Antoine de Saint- Exupéry coined: “A goal without a plan is just a wish.”
Here’s a step-by-step guide to making your wishes come true by mapping out and forming a fundraising calendar for your nonprofit this year.
Step 1: Make a List of Your Calendar From Last Year
Start your process with facts. Ask yourselves the following questions:
- What were your main fundraising events and activities the year prior?
- When did those events and activities occur?
- How much time did you spend on each activity or event?
- How successful was each event and activity?
This exercise will result in a baseline assessment of which events work best for your particular organization. If a particular strategy, like an annual appeal, was too much work for your staff, maybe you should try something else!
Step 2: Map Out Your Fundraising Wish List
What projects are critical this year, and how much funding do you need? Be realistic, based on what you accomplished last year. Were you fundraising for a project last year that drains your resources? What do you really need?
Step 3: List Out Other Potential Fundraising Events and Activities
Brainstorm other potential fundraising events for your organization. Think outside the box! Consider when holidays fall, or special days that relate to your work (like World Autism Day, Arbor Day, etc.). Take a look at some other ideas online:
- 100+ Fundraising Ideas
- 7 Fundraising Ideas for Planting (or Recycling) Trees
- How to Organize a Ready Bake Breakfast Mother’s Day Fundraiser
List out at least 5 new fundraising ideas that might work for your organization. Analyze how much time you think each would take for you to plan and implement. Then analyze how much cost would be involved.
And make a realistic assessment of how much you might earn. The goal is to think of new ideas to replace fundraising activities in your previous calendar that did not work. You might also think of ways to supplement your successful activities to make them even more fruitful. For example, including a raffle or silent auction at your annual Gala might boost donations.
Step 4: Map Out Resources on Your Fundraising Calendar
It is very important to think about what times of the year you have more or less resources.
- Possibly, you have interns that support you during the summer. If so, utilize their help by planning a big fundraising event when they are in your service.
- Maybe you want to have a big end of year appeal. But does your organization give staff time off at the end of the year? You may not have the resources to accomplish that type of fundraising activity if so.
- Also think about when you can pool volunteers. Maybe having a winter-themed event over Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service (January 15) would be wise. If you are an environmental organization, take advantage of people that want to volunteer and help you around Earth Day (April 22).
- Always consider your partners as well. When do you think a partner might be able to donate a venue for an event? Or when might they want to host a joint event and pool resources?
- And of course consider your program schedule. It would not be wise to plan large fundraisers when your staff is going to be overwhelmed with a summer camp or an art show.
Step 5: Consider Your Communications and Outreach
Once you have chosen particular types of events and activities, you need to think about the fundraising communication. When does communication happen for each event or activity and what type of communication is needed? For example, let’s pretend that your nonprofit picked the following 3 events to focus on this year:
- A month-long crowdfunding campaign in February for a school playground. Crowdfunding requires advance planning. You need at least a month of prep time to select a platform and write a campaign. Lining up media exposure or partners to advertise the site is a key to success as well. Then you need to blast the campaign to your social media and other electronic lists, regularly throughout the campaign. Afterwards, you need to thank your donors and deliver any promised benefits for their donations. In all, you will need to allocate time and resources on your calendar for three whole months: January, February, and March.
- A spring luncheon honoring your female Board President for International Women’s Day. Any event requires at least 2 months of advance planning. You need to find a venue; develop a guest list; design, print and send invitations; advertise; call and follow-up with invitees; look for sponsors; and organize volunteers and staff roles. This type of event will be more successful with advance media coverage as well. Following the event, you will likely need to send out donor appeal letters to guests as well. Map off at least 4 months for your total project time!
- A fall walk-a-thon. To host a successful walk-a-thon, you need to advertise and prep well in advance. Participants need to register, so you will need to set up a page on your website or social media. You want participants to fundraise as well, so you need to develop pledge cards and resources for them to reach out to their families and friends. And you need to reach out to media for exposure. Sponsors can boost your event revenues, but you need to take time to reach out often months in advance. You will want to block off at least 5 months on the calendar.
Step 6: Publish Your Fundraising Calendar for the Staff and Board
Now that you have your calendar hashed out, make it public! It is important that the entire team, whether technically fundraisers or not, knows when you are planning your major events. Publish it in a universal format by using google sheets or a similar program.
And one final step, make sure you track your success. That way you can start the whole process over again in a year, but with better metrics to guide your decision-making.