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Getting Started

Fundraising can be overwhelming, but a predetermined plan covers your bases and helps smooth out the process. Whether you’re just getting started, or reevaluating your existing strategy, think of your fundraising plan as a living document that evolves to meet your needs. Read on and start putting the building blocks in place.

Establish Your Budget & Goals

A successful fundraising campaign starts by understanding and organizing your goals. As you craft your fundraising plan, make sure you include your budget and goals. Here's how you get started.


Before you establish your goals, make sure you know your budget. Start by using your organizational costs as your baseline. If your staffing, advertising, support, administrative, and contingency costs are met, you can form truly impactful and achievable goals.


To achieve your goals, make sure they’re achievable. Break down your goals into smaller, more manageable pieces to make them less overwhelming. Then, develop individual plans for each piece. When each piece is met, you’ll find your overall goal was achieved.

Donor Triangle

A pivotal way to break down and achieve your goals is through the “donor triangle” concept. In fundraising, the donor triangle uses the 80/20 rule — the principle that 80% of donations come from 20% of donors — which allows you to organize your donors more effectively: 

  1. Use your budget and contact/grant numbers to rank contribution levels
  2. Determine your goal amount of donors at each level
  3. Anticipate how many are likely to give (this number may be lower than step 2)
  4. Calculate what you can reasonably achieve

Following these steps will create your fundraising amount target, and allows you to better prioritize the time you will spend on individual solicitation efforts. For instance, you may find that your time will be better spent reaching out to the select few at the top of the list, rather than a larger number at the bottom.

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Tell Your Story

Make yourself irresistible to potential donors by making your impact clear.

"Instead of trying to say everything, pick one thing that will resonate with your audience and go with that."

Your story isn’t just about you — it’s about your donors, too. It’s also what sets you apart. As a nonprofit, not only are you fighting for a particular cause, you’re part of something that people relate to. So, in your fundraising plan, lay out how you’re going to tell your story. When done effectively, your message will elicit stronger connections and the willingness to give. Here’s how to show your donors they’re a part of your story:

  • Decide your key message
  • Communicate it clearly
  • Be specific
  • Reveal the possibilities

Tailor Your Solicitation Strategy

Make your solicitation strategy clear in your fundraising plan. While it’s important to recognize that potential donors each have their own preferences, a multichannel approach is the best way to ensure you get noticed. By maintaining consistent messaging across channels, and tailoring your strategy to include email, direct mail, social media, and in-person events, you become memorable — and in the process — more likely to attract donors.    


There’s a reason email is used for fundraising: it can be amplified to huge groups of people as easily as it can be directed to an individual. But either way, they need to be written with care and strategy. Here are a few keys to make that happen:

  • Use good subject lines
  • Set a firm deadline
  • Stay on message (and stick to just one!)
  • Keep it concise
  • Stay consistent
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Direct Mail

Say all you want about “snail mail”, but it remains an effective tactic for fundraising — particularly when its messaging is consistent with your other solicitation methods. Not only can mailers bring in cash donations, but they can bolster your online fundraising strategy when used effectively:

  • Include your URL on your mailers for online payment
  • Follow up direct mail with an email
  • Use your social media to provide additional support for direct mail pieces
Send thank you notes, prospective, and re-solicitation content

Social media

Today’s digitally-flexible society means that your audience is always on, always connected, and easily reachable. Soliciting through social media is not only an effective way to reach potential donors and amplify your message though, but many actually prefer to be reached through their social channels. Here are a few ways to make your social media work for you:

  • Moderate your accounts to get to know your donors and their networks
  • Customize your messages across channels (e.g. Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter) using platform-specific best practices
  • Use interactive tools (such as surveys) to help get your donors involved
  • Post often, use keywords, and remember that quality is better than quantity
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A multichannel approach to connecting with donors wouldn’t be complete without one-on-one and/or group events. Formal events, as well as informal small gatherings, are great ways to energize your donor base, but require strategy to become good fundraisers.

For in-person events, such as galas, minor events, and house parties, you need to ensure you make more money than you spend. Begin by determining your overall budget and working backward to cover location, food, and beverages. Then, assuming that not every attendee will donate, create a minimum donation amount. Doing so will not only cover the cost of your budget, but make up for the attendees who don’t give.

Online events are easier to coordinate than their in-person counterparts, but that does not mean you shouldn’t put in the same level of effort. Utilize your social channels leading up to the event to remind attendees and boost excitement. Engage with your followers to determine what they would like from an online event, and cater to those accordingly. Consider smaller events like lunch-and-learns to keep your donor base updated, and larger, more formal ones for fundraising or campaign kickoffs

Utilizing Your Board of Directors

Your fundraising plan should lay out the qualifications and responsibilities for your Board of Directors. The Board is often in charge of overseeing strategy, messaging, and fundraising; responsible for expanding networks (primarily to low- and mid-level donors); and managing campaign finances (to name a few). There are also specific initiatives members should participate in, such as:

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Direct Contribution:

The board should comprise a small group of trustworthy people personally invested in your nonprofit, including the ability and willingness to give money as well as time. Consider civic leaders, business owners, and other local community members with access to outside circles.

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Each board member should compile a large list of likely donors and reach out to them personally, working with campaign staff to track results.



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Fundraising Committee

Your board’s first priority may be fundraising. They should determine your donor triangle, review fundraising materials, plan and execute events, and be a feedback tool for practice phone calls and in-person meetings.


“Be clear in your goals and intentions when recruiting your board members to avoid turnover, and always try to make the atmosphere fun — people want to feel like they are a part of something…"

Determine Donor Initiatives

In addition to ongoing fundraising efforts, many organizations find success by tapping into new initiatives with uniquely defined goals and targets. This helps focus your staff and volunteers around singular activities and fosters urgency for your organization and prospective donors. In your fundraising plan, determine donor initiatives such as:

Major Gifts

The donors who fund the lion’s share of your campaign should be treated on an individual basis and tailored to their preferences. This can be made up of personalized thank you’s, involvement in key activities, and “touch base” phone calls ahead of major pushes.

Corporate Giving

Corporations that give should be recognized in your fundraising materials — helping boost their voice as much as they are boosting yours.




Mid-Level Donors

In a similar way to major gift-givers, mid-level donors should be thanked and kept up-to-date. Include them in emails, engage with them on social media, and ensure they are a valued part of your organization.



Grassroots donor initiatives can be an excellent way to amplify giving on one-time events and attract monthly sustainers, such as get-to-know-us breakfasts. Thank these donors with free food, merchandise, or smaller gifts like stickers or coupons to local businesses.


Consider selling organizational merchandise or services in exchange for donations. This is a particularly low level-of-effort way of organizing donor initiatives geared toward those who are unable to give a high amount or become sustainers.


Grants & Special Projects

Many non-profits lean on foundations for grants and major gifts. While applying for these grants does not necessarily fit under the umbrella of solicitation or donor initiatives, your organization should apply for all applicable grants and include monetary goals in your fundraising plan.

Monthly Giving/Sustainers

Sustainers give regularly, albeit in smaller amounts. They see value in being a part of your organization, and should be treated as insiders. Perks, event invitations, and exclusive emails/direct mail efforts help them feel engaged and energized for your organization.

Crafting Your Fundraising Plan

Your fundraising plan should follow the steps listed above — but it should also be unique to you. There’s a reason you’re starting your fundraiser in the first place, so make sure your identity shines through. In doing so though, make sure you do it right. After all, your fundraising plan isn’t just the map to your destination, it’s the vehicle that gets you there.