Design your fundraising strategy

Does your nonprofit have less than 1000 donors, then this post is for you.

The beginning of the year marks the beginning of financial years for a large number of nonprofits. As a nonprofit, your organization must have set aside a fundraising budget for the year. Now is the time to set a strategy in place to make the most of that budget.

We know the basics. Thank donors and ask them for more money. But a systematic strategy can help you better engage them. It’s not just about increasing the number of donors you have, proactively managing the ones who are already on board is equally important. 

Your goal precedes your strategy:

Set a higher goal than the previous year. Its goes without saying that unless an organization keeps challenging itself to outperform its own successes, it will be get harder to outperform a competitor. In the nonprofit sector, competition is usually not openly advertised. But multiple nonprofits compete for the same resources from the same foundations and donors. 

This year set a realistic percentage increase in your fundraising goal. Then use it to drive your donor and fundraising strategy.

Guidelines for strategically planning your fundraising:


  • Get to know your donors as people and not simply as funding sources. The more engaged you can make them feel, the easier it will be to ask for support.
    • A few online databases offer some helpful features to assist you in getting to know your donors. These databases have sections where you can complete a full donor history so that you can remember donor birthdays, their place of work and their giving history. If you can’t afford to pay for an online database, Microsoft excel combined with great organizing works just fine.
  • Pick a theme for every communication tool and events for the year. Set one theme to communicate to all the donors instead of talking about everything that you do. The lesser the information, the more likely it is to be remembered.
    • Color: Colors can power your messages. Pick a color variation that continues to reflect your brand color. If your brand or logo is blue, shades of blue can be the variation that you pick for all your communication and media. The idea is to get them thinking about you when they see the color even elsewhere. 
    • Slogan: A short catchy slogan is remembered for a long time. Pick something catchy and short that can be applied to every aspect of your organization. Then remember to include it at campaigns so that people associate the slogan with your organization for the year.
  • Events throughout the year. Your organization can appeal to a wider audience with events where they can participate instead of simply asking for donations. You could appeal to businesses through motivational speaker sessions, golfing or skiing events. You could appeal to others through runs, hikes and walks. Others might commit to a ‘dine and donate’ event.
    • The events can be spread throughout the year and with the right team in place to plan and lead them, this could be an easy way to engage more people and raise more funds.  
    • If you are partnering with companies and other organizations, reach out with your plans sooner than you think you should. You will avoid the risk of getting turned down because you waited too long.
    • When you invite donors to events, be a great host to them. A small acknowledgement goes a long way!
  • Communication tools keep donors engaged throughout the year. There are some organizations that bombard donors with too many mails and requests. Then there are some who only send reminder newsletters when it’s time for end of the year fundraising. Neither of these extremes are very effective strategies. Different sets of donors prefer different approaches to communication.
    • Evaluate your donor database and determine who would prefer printed newsletters and the percentage of donors who would prefer to keep up with you simply over social media and occasional emails. Now plan your communication strategy accordingly. Keep your social media page active and relevant. Encourage your donors to help your page grow. Your staff, volunteers and board can be your free advertising tool.

Which of these designs will make a greater impact? The one with just the right amount of information.

  • Budget for good presentation and marketing. This is an area where nonprofits often become stringent. When assigning a budget to your marketing efforts, remember this: Unless your stories get told in a manner that further engages your current and future donors, you will not be able to attract more donors to support you. The content, frequency and presentation skills will reveal how serious you are about the work you do. Donors judge based on the quality of messaging that you send through your communication media.
  • Measure your fundraising strategy outcomes every month or once a quarter depending on how robust your fundraising strategy is. It’s not just about how much effort you are putting into fundraising, it’s about getting results. 
    • Did we hit our fundraising goal for the month/quarter?
    • What was the percentage increase in donor participation during events?
    • How many new donors did we acquire this year?
    • Is our fundraising strategy still relevant for the rest of the year?

Helping the strategy succeed: 

  • If you don’t already have someone in-charge of implementing your fundraising plans for the year, hire someone to get it done. Give your strategy a fair chance to win/
  • Set up accounts for easy donations. If your donors prefer sending checks, have a mailing address in place and communicate it through all your communication tools. We recommend having an option to pay online as well. Make it easy for donors to give. List out your needs and the impact their gifts would have. 
    • According to The Blackbaud Index, online charitable giving increased by 15.3% in 2016. More than 4000 organizations were compared to establish this number. 

Managing donors is one of the most important components of running a non-profit. Without a functional donor management strategy, sustainability of funding sources can take a serious hit. Commit to a great strategy and let us know if it worked.

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