Want a successful fundraising year? Start with these planning basics.

Those organizations that really benefit from the year-end surge in giving don’t wait until they’re done with Thanksgiving dinner to start the process. No, they start working their plan in January and keep at it each and every month. They do it through a steady drumbeat of planned “touches” with their donors and prospects. The result is an informed and inspired base of supporters who will respond generously to your appeals, not only next December, but all year long. It’s not complicated, but it is important to plan for the right message to the right people at the right time. Your plan must address these three basics:

1) Segmentation

All supporters are not the same. You need a way to communicate with different groups effectively. You probably have at least 5 different “constituencies” within your nonprofit’s universe with unique points of view that can be addressed through your communications. (More on Segmentation in a future post.)

2) Communication

A thoughtful communication strategy is not separate from the fundraising strategy, it is the heart of it. Consider the different channels you use to reach out to your friends and supporters. Try to shoot for at least one “touch” a month through newsletters, emails, special events, even posts on Facebook. (More on Communication in a future post.)

3) Solicitation

Bottom line, please don’t forget to make the ask. Be sure your plan builds in multiple asks using multiple channels. It isn’t enough to wait until December for one big mailing anymore. A best practice is to reach out for a gift a minimum of three times in the course of the year. (More on Solicitation in a future post.)

Build out the plan

Here’s an annual plan that many small and medium sized non-profits use successfully.


  • Quarterly newsletter


  • E-mail survey of donors and members


  • Spring Donor Recognition Banquet


  • Quarterly newsletter
  • Spring donor appeal and prospect mailing; different letters/ask strings for those who gave in fall and those who didn’t.
  • Phone-a-thon follow-up


  • Postcard reminder and email follow up


  • Year-end e-mail reminder to those who have yet to give


  • Quarterly newsletter


  • Thank you postcard with previous annual fund results


  • Hand-addressed, special package to all who have given at $125 or above, inviting them to join a leadership circle group at the appropriate level.
  • Direct mail package to all donors and prospects (members, alumni, visitors, patients, etc.), inviting them to give, renew, or become members.
  • E-mail follow-up, notifying that the package should have arrived and asking to give online or to return pledge card.
  • Phone-a-thon follow-up to all previous donors within one to two weeks of receipt of package. Solicit monthly debited giving from those who give twice per year.


  • Quarterly newsletter (mail and e-mail)


  • Special letter to all current and previous donors or members about how gifts were used: accomplishments, who was helped, and how the mission was delivered.


  • Second letter or postcard, mailed first week of December to those who haven’t yet given
  • Volunteer call to those not reached
  • Reminder e-mail last week of December to those who haven’t yet given


Download your free planning calendar

Planning CalendarIt’s helpful to get this kind of plan out of a list and onto a calendar for an overall visual of the major touches you’ve planned for the year. Sometimes a season will jump out at you as being particularly crowded with activity. Or, more likely, you’ll find obvious gaps in your plan when you see too much open space. So we’ve developed a handy form in Word for you to download and fill in with your own development plan. We even have a sample that’s pre-populated with the highlights from the plan above. Please use it or modify however you see fit to make this year your best yet!

Download Planning Calendar

Need help getting out your spring fundraising appeal?

Whether you need lists, data-work, printing and mailing, or help with writing, design and editing, we are ready to help you! Call me at 1-800-437-7780 ext 104, or Email Me Today!

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