How to Write a Successful Annual Fundraising Plan in 6 Steps

If you are trying to fundraise without an annual fundraising plan, you are trying to bake a pie with a lot of ingredients but no recipe.

Can you do it?


The contestants on The Great British Baking Show manage to get it right with impressive frequency.

But… that either requires a good memory or a lot of guesswork.

Do you really want to make fundraising so hard? Or leave so many things to chance?

The solution is to have a recipe or rather, a plan, that maps out all your fundraising for the year.

You see, your annual fundraising plan is a treasure map that leads you to the exact activities that will raise the most money for your nonprofit over the course of the coming year.

Your plan will:

  • Keep you focused on what works and stop you from chasing every shiny new idea.
  • Balance your activities, keeping you from letting entire months slip by with no active fundraising, then squeezing in too many fundraisers and Asks at the end of the year (which feels really crappy to donors!).
  • Allow you to time your appeals for the best results and spread your grant writing throughout the year, instead of cranking out a year’s worth of grants in the fall when you’re also planning your year-end campaign. That approach to grant writing doesn’t work, by the way.
  • Engage your Board. You can show them exactly what’s coming up and invite them to choose which activities they want to be involved in.
  • Give you the power to deflect the “great new ideas” your Board, staff, and volunteers come up with, because you can show them what you already have planned.

Actually, having a plan gives you an out. You can say to them “Wow, that’s a great idea. But, my fundraising plan for the year is already pretty full [show them your written plan]. In order to take on your idea, one of these will have to come off.” They’ll back right off and you won’t overcommit yourself trying to make them happy!

This strategy helps educate them that you have a lot on tap already and that you won’t be dropping everything to sell poinsettias, publish a cookbook, enter a national contest, or write a letter to a celebrity asking for money (or whatever else they’ve come up with).

Given the many ways a fundraising plan can make your life easier, it’s hard to understand why so many organizations don’t have them.

Often, fear of creating a less-than-perfect plan holds people back. Or the search for the perfect template. Or enough data. Sometimes Imposter Syndrome rears its ugly head and keeps you from making a plan because you think you’re the least qualified person to do it.

But here’s the thing: done is better than perfect. Done means you have a map and can start driving toward your destination.

Your imperfect, good-enough, fluid annual fundraising plan will give you the roadmap for the year, so you always know what is happening next. In fact, a fundraising plan that’s 50% done and 100% implemented will ALWAYS produce better results than no plan.

If you’re smart and build revenue projections into your plan, you’ll have a good idea of cash flow for the year. You’ll have the confidence of knowing when the time is right to spend money on programs, something many young and small organizations struggle with.

And your plan will give you a reality check to hold back when you are tempted to barrel ahead with a new program before you have fully figured out the funding for it.

With a plan, you’ll:

  • Be more productive because you’ll be working on tasks that move you toward your goals.
  • Feel confident that you aren’t wasting time on unproductive tasks.
  • Leverage your resources of time, energy, and money on things that will give you the greatest return on investment.

The process of writing your annual fundraising plan will be transformational and freeing. Don’t put it off. Just do it!

And here’s the recipe you need.