By Dawn M.S. Miller, CFRE, Vice President – Annual Fund
One look at the Let’s Build Hope calendars, and we know that fiscal year planning is nipping at our heels. Those of us who love planning are doing our happy dance. If you don’t love planning, you still need to make it happen, even if your happy dance is only a small jig.
If you have a July-June fiscal year (as do the vast majority of nonprofits), the budgeting process begins as early as February, which means all fundraising planning has to be complete before budgets are finalized, usually in mid-spring.
But budgets should NEVER drive annual fundraising projections. How often do we hear that the Finance Office has provided the fundraisers with a magical number to raise? All the time! Does that make sense? Nope, not at all! Fundraising is not some sort of magic pixie dust we throw in the air to make money start falling from the sky. We must be careful planners, and this begins with annual planning.
Fundraisers need to vet their donors and numbers before including them in the budget. It’s not as simple as saying, “We can grow 10%, 15%, or 20% this year.” We need to see the path to those donors and dollars. There’s no guessing here – strategies and data must always back up the fundraising goal. That’s why the annual planning process is essential.
Set aside 1-2 days each February-March for a planning session with your development team – volunteers included! Try to go offsite so you can focus solely on planning – no distractions. Discuss all the development strategies used over the past year. Look at the 2–3-year trend lines too.
Evaluate each strategy, rating it to decide if it is a good use of fundraising time and effort. Keep the good stuff that raises more dollars and retains more donors, and decide which initiatives might not be working for your nonprofit anymore.
If you find a golf tournament grosses $100,000, costs $45,000, takes 800 staff hours, and the donor retention rate is 25%…you’ll need to have a hard conversation about whether to keep the event. You may find that a different fundraising strategy raises more dollars, builds stronger donor relationships, and is a better use of time. Just think…if you spent those 800 hours with your major donors, would you raise more money for your nonprofit? YES!
We must remember…as professional fundraisers, every hour of every day needs to be spent in the right ways to drive towards your fundraising goals and fund your mission. Anything that takes our eye off that goal should be re-examined during the annual planning session.
At Let’s Build Hope, we love annual planning days. If you need some guidance about planning for your next fiscal year, call (314) 716-2496 or send us an email – we’re here for you! If you’re lucky, you might just see our happy dance in person! 😊
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