The Process of Developing a Fundraising Plan
Now that you have the basic start-up essentials in place, it is time to focus on your actual plan for raising funds. In this article, we will look at how to set realistic goals, how to properly evaluate your current assets, learn how to organize your plan and discover methods of developing practical strategies.

Setting Realistic Fundraising Goals

The secret to success in this aspect of fundraising is to find a comfortable balance between what you hope to raise and what is possible to raise. In other words, don't set your goals too high or too low. If you set them too high, you will be disappointed in the final outcome and this will lead to discouragement for all involved. If you set them too low, you and your team will not feel challenged and will know that you could have done better, tried harder and pushed further.

There are several things to consider when setting goals for your organization; the most important considerations and additions to your document should include:

    • How much money is needed, to the nearest dollar you can manage, to run the programs and services you wish to provide?
    • How much money is needed to fund operations and pay the overhead costs of running your organization, or to finance a specific fundraising event?
    • Do you have an expected source of donations that is larger than all others? Will that particular source diminish over time, or will it increase?
    • Do you have any ideas for sources of donations that you can count on to generate income on a regular basis?
    • Which planned sources of donations seem to have the potential to expand and bring more income in the future?

There are multiple sources of funding for your organization. You should discuss your options with your team to decide which would work best for your particular group. Below are some of the most used and proven methods of raising dollars for fundraising:

    • Donations solicited by mail, telephone, or email from individuals
    • Donations solicited from corporations or foundations
    • Funds acquired through grants
    • Funds raised via special events and/or product sales
    • Funds raised via "in-kind" gifts
Evaluating Your Assets
Even though, initially, your assets may be small, your organization possesses valuable and important resources that should be evaluated at the very beginning of your endeavor. You should be careful to track your growing assets carefully and expand the list as your nonprofit grows. Some valuable aspects that present themselves in the early stages of development may include:
    • You! The fearless leader of the organization, and any partners
    • Volunteers
    • Paid specialists
    • Committed donors
    • Equipment purchased or donated, to date
    • Copyrights and trademarks
    • Potential or won grants
    • Your reputation, and that of your volunteers
    • Your organization's specific appeal to donors and volunteers

Organizing Your Plan

Nonprofits traditionally take their cue from for-profit businesses when developing fundraising plans -- and with good reason. What works for profit will also work for nonprofit. If you create a simple document using these methods, you will have a good, solid basis from which to develop more involved plans to later apply for, and win, government and private grants and/or funding for your nonprofit.
Business plans focus on four basic factors:

1. A description of the organization:

Essentially this is your mission statement, as it will describe why your organization was created, and what the ultimate goals of fundraising are.

2. Information about the management of the organization:

This portion of the plan outlines who is running the organization, its key personnel, and any and all volunteers and their capacity.

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3. Target market information:

Here you want to clearly define any competition for funds; list all those served by your organization and the area or specific place, if any, that it serves.

4. Current financial situation:

This is where the list of assets you made earlier will come in handy. You will need to evaluate and create an astute description of the value of your organization at this point. This will later be used to create a future plan for fundraising success.

Organizing your fundraising plan should be a relatively simple procedure if you have created a clear mission statement and tallied your assets as suggested previously. If you have followed these steps, you're already halfway done!

Developing Strategy

Creating a strategic plan is as vital to the success of your organization as your mission and case statements are. In fact, as with developing your "business" plan, creating a strategic plan will be much easier if you have taken the time to form comprehensive mission and case statements. The strategic plan is similar to a case statement in many ways, but it differs in several aspects, as well.
The most important components of a strategic plan are specifying your goals and objectives. While your case statement defines why you established your organization and how it will benefit others -- goals and objectives will explain the actions you will take to accomplish your mission. You should list all programs you intend to put into motion and how you plan to implement them.


Alice's Kitchen, (a nonprofit group that feeds the homeless), is planning to integrate into its current program a yearly drive to feed the hungry at Thanksgiving. Thus, the strategic plan for this program would look something like this:


: To provide healthy meals to those individuals in and around our service area who would otherwise go without during this difficult time of year; to get the word out about this program to those in need, and recruit extra volunteers to handle the task efficiently.

: Since Alice's Kitchen already has the necessary equipment and facilities in place to provide such a service to the community, our focus will be on the following:

1) Raising the extra funds needed to cover overhead costs.
2) Circulating word of the new program to the area.
3) Recruiting extra "holiday" volunteers.
To accomplish these goals, we will call upon our current supporters for donations for this added service; we will also begin a direct mail campaign two months before Thanksgiving in order to win new donors.
We have established that this event will feed more than 200 individuals. The cost will be $3.00 per person, which incorporates the price of the meal, its preparation, and all operating costs.
We anticipate donations will increase in the years following the first year of implementation, as word spreads about this service. In order to notify community members of the service, we will post flyers in all local businesses, as well as within our own facility; we will also implement a "word-of-mouth" campaign by alerting all visitors, volunteers, associates, and friends of Alice's Kitchen of this new program.
To acquire volunteers we will place ads in local papers and call upon our current volunteers to recruit friends and family members to help. We will also notify local high school, college, and university centers to enlist the aid of willing students trying to earn community service credits.


By setting realistic fundraising goals you will be more likely to reach those goals. Creating a well developed "business" and strategic plan will keep your organization focused and become great documents for winning donors and additional funding. Keep in mind that when creating your unique strategic plan, it is important to address the actions you will take. Break each program or service that you want to provide down individually and signify the goals and objectives for each one.
Fundraising Events


Special events are considered a great boon to nonprofits. A well-planned event or product fundraiser can bring in just the amount you need to meet a yearly goal or fund a pet program. In general, donors enjoy these types of fundraisers. (How many people do you know who can pass up a Girl Scout Cookie Drive. Think Thin Mints!) These types of fundraisers are also great fun for your volunteers and all others involved in your organization.
In this lesson, we will discuss the various proven events that can put you over the top of your annual fundraising goals, or even fund one specific program or drive.

Special Events

Special events can be a fun and proactive way to raise funds for your organization. It is important to remember to keep your costs as low as possible when hosting a special event; it will defeat your cause if your expenses and overhead end up eating up all of your earnings. If you are on a tight budget, try to get as much of your special event donated as possible; ask volunteers to take care of tasks that might otherwise eat up your profits.
You can ask volunteers to play the role of DJ, chef, fashion model, tricky tray runner, waitress, waiter, bartender. The point is to have as many people, places, and things donated (and doing what they do for free) as possible, no matter what size your organization is.
Need some ideas for special events? Here is a list of ideas that have proven to be high in earnings and low in expenditure:
    • Walk-a-thons
    • 5k, 10k, or 20k races
    • Summer Fairs
    • Fall Festivals
    • Spring Fairs
    • Special Dinners
    • Craft Fairs
    • Concerts
    • Special Raffles

Raising Money With Product Fundraising

Product fundraising essentially entails your organization offering a product or service for sale, which the donor purchases for a small fee. The key to this type of fundraising is to keep costs for the production of the product very low, and the profits as far above cost as possible, without turning buyers away. Product fundraising has a long and illustrious history of earning funds for numerous charities and organizations throughout the world. People love to get something for something. Girl Scout cookies, (Product) RED apparel and Warrior Wear are just a few high-profile examples of product fundraising.
There is a plethora of companies that are in the business of creating fun products for fundraising. Some of them are offered in the sources section of this lesson, as are book titles that provide a wealth of information on this subject. Keep your branding in mind when selecting a product to sell, and make sure to get a sample of what the end product will look like before going ahead and ordering a large amount of the item to sell. Ordering 1000 widgets that turn out to be purple, instead of the requested blue, will surely put a damper on things.
Get opinions from your team on the sample, you may get a few who dislike the end result, but if most of your group agrees that it would sell, then -- as they say -- majority rules. Once you have a product ready to meet the public, there are many venues in which to make them available for sale. This is another situation where a website comes in handy; you can offer your fundraising product(s) for sale directly from your site. Other options include your office of operation, via volunteers, local stores, and places of business, school and university book stores, door-to-door, and at events that your organization hosts throughout the year.

Here are a few product item possibilities and ideas to get you started:

    • Greeting cards
    • Silicone bracelets
    • Pins
    • T-shirts
    • Chocolate bars
    • Coffee/tea mugs
    • Key chains
Here are a few important product fundraising tips to keep in mind:
    • Keep your branding in mind when ordering or creating a product to sell.
    • Get a sample before ordering a large amount.
    • Get free shipping from the product provider.
    • Make sure you are getting at least 50 percent of the profits from the sales.
    • Don't sell junk; make sure your product is well made.
    • Keep sale prices reasonable, but above cost.
    • Do not allow children to sell anywhere (except known safe places: school, family events, etc.) without an adult accompanying them.

Co-Branded Product Fundraising

There has been a great deal of "co-branded" fundraising occurring in the last several years, which has become a boon to charities. It may be worth your effort to team up with a well-known company that would be interested in creating a product for your organization.
The Gap joined forces with TheGlobalFund in 2006 to launch their (Product) RED campaign. Ford Motor Company has been working with the Susan G. Koman Foundation since 1995 to raise breast cancer awareness, and launched the successful Warriors In Pinkcampaign in 2006. Co-branding usually benefits both parties quite well. The charity receives the benefit of big company advertising and exposure to their large customer base, and receives half -- or in some cases, more than half -- of the profits for their cause; the big business benefits by garnering admiration from their customers, by receiving free media attention, and often by attracting new loyal customers.
While partnering with companies as large as The Gap and Ford may be lofty ambitions for a new organization, the theory is an excellent one and you can use the idea to join with equally leveled companies to achieve similar results on a smaller scale -- at least until your organization achieves worldwide recognition status!
Small Events for Donors

Small groups need not shy away from event or product fundraising; in fact, they serve as an excellent way to reach yearly donation goals or provide a means of funding specific programs. There are great creative ways to raise funds with low or no overhead costs for smaller organizations. Think about having a once-a-year product fundraiser, rather than offering items for sale all year round.
If your organization involves children, have them create holiday cards -- either by hand, or with the aid of a computer; make multiple copies of them, purchase appropriately sized envelopes, and offer them for sale a month before the holiday season. Other great options include bake sales, spaghetti dinners, pancake breakfasts, auctions, school carnivals, car washes, family fun nights and fashion shows. Even small events require some advertising to pull in as many customers or attendees as possible. Post flyers around town, tell volunteers to get the word out, and email a catchy invitation to your "list" members. Be sure to call the local paper to ask if they would run a story on your small event. Many local papers offer a "monthly events" section where you can advertise your event free of charge. Barring that, pay the small fee to take out an ad.


Special events, product fundraising and co-branding are all great ways to raise funds. Donors love to purchase items for a good cause. These types of fundraisers are fun for your donors, as well as your volunteers. If your organization is new or small -- start small. Be creative and remember to use events and product sales to extend your branding.