To build and maintain a successful fundraising program, you must plan. And what makes an Annual Plan effective? It results in more money and improved relationships with more constituents. More importantly, an Annual Plan must be doable.
Streamline the process by focusing on the 3 Cs: Constituents, Calendar, and Channels.
Think in terms of affiliation types, donor status, and donor level. You can then plan specific messaging based on their connection to the organization and where they are in the donor cycle (ie., first-time donors, high-level donors, non-donors, etc.).
For each constituency type, consider how you will connect with them to maximize retention & upgrades, and minimize attrition and downgrades. Remember—only include separate messaging if there are meaningful differentiations (in other words, don’t unnecessarily complicate your planning or the execution ahead).
- First-time or lower-level donors: These donors need to be shown proper respect—a few more added touches than just solicitations for support. You may or may not be a charitable priority for them, but either way you must stay on their radar through gratitude.
- Higher-level donors: These donors may require more frequent or detailed communication about the impact of their gifts. You may also need to restate how your organization’s values align with theirs to reinforce the personal relationship.
Build your plan following the standard 12-month calendar. This is how your donors and constituents live their lives. If your fiscal year is different, you can adapt your plan for budgeting purposes after you’ve developed a donor-centric 12-month calendar.
Start by filling in communications that coincide with natural starting and ending points for your organization and programs.
For example, schools will have a semester that roughly coincides with the holidays and end-of-the-year calendar, as well as the school year ending near the typical June 30th fiscal year end dates. In these cases, you automatically have two dates around which to build fundraising appeals and push the urgency for giving.
With your major asks in place, it’s time to fill in the rest of your calendar with other Annual Plan elements using the third C.
Next, use different channels to provide regular and varied touches for all of your constituent groups to reinforce messaging and follow-up on your primary calls to action.
- Direct Mail: Appeal letters (3 or more direct asks for gifts); postcards for single-point messages, save the dates, and giving reminders; newsletters; Donor Impact Reports; and Annual Reports.
- Events: All-inclusive fundraising events like tournaments, Run/Walks, Auctions; cultivation and stewardship events like a Legacy Society Member Banquet.
- Online Media: Website updates that coincide with appeals or newsletter mailings; frequent social media posts; emails to highlight impact areas, mission value propositions, calls to action; E-Newsletters with testimonials, look-aheads, and beneficiary or donor profiles.
- In-Person: phone-a-thons/thank-a-thons; individual emails/phone calls/letters; in-person visits.
You do NOT need all the above elements to have an effective Annual Plan that will improve your relationships and your fundraising results. Be realistic, understand your limitations and what makes sense for you—and consider how partners like Five Maples can help to expand your staff’s capacity and expertise.
Download this free planning calendar to help you visualize and plot your 3 Cs.
I’d love to see an example of your Annual Plan or calendar. Please email me and I can provide feedback and a few suggestions.