Whether your March came in like a lion or like a lamb, it’s a good time to review your Fundraising Plan.

As we approach the end of the first quarter of the year, this is the time you should have your first review and, if necessary, revision of your organization’s Fundraising Plan.

Your Fundraising Plan, along with your organization’s other planning documents, should be integrated and complement one another. You may even have a planning document that combines elements, such as fundraising, with other organizational goals and objectives.

Planning is good. It is a best practice. Benjamin Franklin was right, you know! Fail to plan, plan to fail!

Look at your goals when you start your review.

If you had a goal such as:

Annual Giving:  February direct mail appeal with a Valentine Day theme; mailing list of all current and one-year lapsed donors; raise $15,000 after expenses; timeframe the month of February, appeal mails on February 1, majority of revenue by February 28.

Start with a review of the revenue, of course.

Compare the revenue with expenses to determine the net. Look at the average gift size, donors who increased (or decreased) giving. Integrate this review with budget comparisons, preparing to adjust if revenue was lower, or higher, than anticipated.

Review things related to the mailing list.

Look at pieces returned because of bad address, number and percentage of people on the list made a gift, number and percentage asked to be removed from your list, etc.

Was there anything that impacted, negatively or positively, the appeal? I did an annual giving appeal that reached mailboxes the same weekend Hurricane Katrina reached New Orleans. The appeal did not reach its goal as generosity was directed toward hurricane relief for several months.

This type of review should be an ongoing part of your work; your Fundraising Plan should be adjusted accordingly.

Your review should drive the beginnings of your 2020 Fundraising Plan.

After a close examination of the Valentine Day appeal, ask yourself if it’s worth doing again next year and, if so, what should be adjusted or changed. This becomes a 2020 fundraising activity and, as such, will be in your Fundraising Plan.

Goals are among the most important items of your Fundraising Plan. Develop your goals in partnership with staff, board and community partners (as necessary for your programming). Use historical data and other information as you create goals.

Ideally, your Fundraising Plan has SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Time-bound).


You’ve probably heard of SMART goals; they are used in a variety of sectors—nonprofit and for-profit. The acronym guides your goal development.

Make your goal Specific. Our Valentine Day annual giving appeal will generate $15,000 to fund the after-school art camp during the spring semester.

You want to be able to Measure your goal to determine success. The $15,000 goal is your measure.

I always stress the Attainable part of SMART goal development. If your past annual giving appeals to a similar mailing have only generate $3,000 to $5,000, a goal of $15,000 may be a bit out of reach.

A Realistic goal will connect to several factors. If your mailing list if a few hundred donors who have been giving small average gifts ($100 to $150), it’s probably not realistic to expect a $15,000 campaign.

Your goal should be Timely. An effective timeframe for a Valentine Day appeal would be February 1-28.  

Use this handy SMART acronym to guide your goal development and review.

Find additional information in Cause Vox’s detailed guide to Fundraising Plans—with calendaring information, goals, templates and other resources. https://www.causevox.com/fundraising-plan-calendar/

The format and appearance of your Fundraising Plan can help (or hinder) the effectiveness of the Plan. Find the format that works best for the specific needs of your organization. There’s a wealth of samples on the Internet. Start at Template.net. https://www.template.net/business/plan-templates/nonprofit-fundraising-plan/