The fundraising action plan: seven steps to success

If you're thinking about fundraising, you'll need a good plan. To help, here's an excerpt from The Complete Community Fundraising Handbook.

Once you have your strategic plan, your business plan and your marketing plan in place, you can start working on your fundraising action plan.

Your action plan should have seven specific components, and all of them need careful attention:

1. Setting the Target

"Raising money" isn’t enough. "Raising $20,000" isn’t enough (though you need financial goals as well). You need to estimate costs and returns at each stage of the process. Don't just write in how much you need to raise; what counts is what you're able to raise. Never lie to your budget.

2. Making the Plan

What actions will you undertake to go about raising that sum? Quantitative goals are easier to focus on and much easier to monitor. For example, instead of "Visit donors" write down "Visit five donors". Instead of "approach possible sponsors" plan to visit "five warm possible sponsors".

3. Identifying the players

Wherever you have an action to be performed, settle on who's going to do it – and don't take the easy way out by giving all the tough jobs to whoever didn't turn up at the meeting (and don’t punish someone for coming up with an idea by giving them all the work). Check that the people who are down to do things have the time and the skills and the authority to do them. Make sure they know they are down to do them, and that they'll be held accountable if they're not done.

4. Clocking the timing

Wherever you've got an activity down, settle on how long it ought to take – five days? Five weeks? What's the margin for error? Even a rough estimate helps the people involved to gain perspective and allows you to see what tasks are dependent on others being completed first.

5. Setting deadlines and checking for progress

Draw up a timetable with major deadlines featured in red. Allow a little cushion for delays (but don't let people just include these in the basic task times). If you can see that some components must be completed before others, break these out as separate tasks and give them personal attention at every stage. Pencil in the spots where you'll have to monitor the work to make sure that all target dates are being met.

6. Weighing your resources

Check every action to see whether it will need any extra resources (money, people, expertise). Will you have to spend money to get the job done? Have you got it? When will you need it? Will you need support staff or cooperation from other people? Specify the requirements in advance so there are no surprises.

7. Adding it all up

Make sure you've included not only step-by step monitoring of progress but also allowance for a through after-the-fact evaluation. Did you reach your targets in time, cost, and outcomes? What lessons have been learned? Qualitative goals are important, too. How will you decide if the job was well done? Set the guidelines or criteria before you start, and be sufficiently flexible to notice what else happened that needs to be counted in the pluses or the minuses of the campaign.

Finally, make allowance for a thorough after-the-fact evaluation.

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