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Build Your Fundraising Strategy From the Ground Up: 10 Steps

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Step #6: Create an action plan.

Your action plan outlines the concrete steps that your team will follow to achieve your organization’s fundraising goals. With everyone on the same page, your team will be better equipped to successfully carry out your fundraising initiatives.

Some fundraising activities that your organization might find productive include:

  • Social fundraising such as peer-to-peer campaigns or crowdfunding. These activities help supporters take a more active role in their engagement with your nonprofit, strengthening their bonds with your cause.
  • Major donor cultivation efforts such as meeting with major donors one-on-one. These measures ensure that you’re taking specific steps to steward your most impactful donors.
  • Fostering corporate partnerships through joint marketing campaigns and other mutually-beneficial activities. This allows you to diversify your fundraising streams with valuable corporate support.

Matching gifts should also play a significant role in your fundraising plan. From corporate matches to challenge matches to matches made by a local business, there are several ways you can incorporate matching gifts into your activities.

While it might take time before you see the results of your matching gift efforts, promoting these philanthropy programs can help you reach (and even exceed!) your goals. To get started, you’ll need to promote matching gifts during your fundraising activities. Send out emails reminding donors to submit a request and link to your matching gift page (if you have one) so they can learn more information.

The date of every fundraising activity your organization plans should be clearly marked to avoid activity overlap. This also helps your nonprofit better plan out donor interactions and keeps you on schedule to communicate with your donors regularly.

Here’s an example of what a fundraising plan for January-March might look like:

This graph compares event attendance and donor acquisition over time, showcasing an example of how important it is to track key metrics while implementing your fundraising strategy.

Your action plan should clearly state:

  • The staff member, volunteer or department in charge of each fundraising activity.
  • The estimated cost of each activity.
  • A goal that determines each activity’s success.

The more details your fundraising plan includes, the more effective a tool it will be to guide your fundraising strategy!


Step #8: Revamp your marketing strategy.

Effective marketing is key to the success of any fundraising effort, from a Giving Day drive to a major, multi-year capital campaign. Continually reviewing your marketing approach allows you to take advantage of new techniques and platforms to reach supporters most effectively.

Remember: when it comes to fundraising, it’s not just about what you say, but how you say it. A well-timed, well-written marketing message can convince new supporters who may be on the fence about becoming donors.

As you review your marketing approach, be sure to:

Adopt a multichannel marketing strategy.

Donors have different communication preferences. While email marketing may connect you with one segment of supporters, that may exclude other segments of individuals who prefer offline communication methods like phone calls.

A multichannel marketing strategy will connect you with a larger pool of supporters and provide multiple touchpoints for donors to engage with your team.

To reach a wide array of current and potential supporters, consider leveraging these different marketing platforms:

  • Email. Create a continuous stream of outreach by sending a monthly newsletter where you give big-picture updates to your supporters.
  • Social Media. Reach younger generations of donors by regularly posting across social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok. While your core messages can be consistent, adjust the type of content you feature on each platform. For example, Instagram lends itself well to imagery, while Facebook is great for sharing links and long-form content.
  • SEO Marketing. Your website is an incredibly valuable part of your marketing strategy. Increase your visibility on search engines by optimizing your web content for specific keywords. If you don’t have time to master search engine optimization (SEO) best practices, the Google Ad Grant program can help your SEO efforts substantially. You’ll receive $10,000 each month to spend on promoting your web pages on Google Ads.
  • Direct Mail. An awful lot of donors still prefer traditional communication methods. Send flyers and fundraising letters to those who share their postal addresses with your team.

Pay attention to the types of messages that perform well on each platform. If you notice your ROI on a particular platform is much higher, you might reallocate more of your time toward it and less toward platforms that aren’t generating a ton of value. 

Focus on marketing platforms that your audience members already use.

Instead of hopping on the latest and greatest platforms, focus on the platforms that your audience members already use. This also allows you to measure performance using tried-and-true metrics, such as email open rates, direct mail response rates, and social media engagement.

Based on these metrics, you can pinpoint which platforms are most effective for engaging your audience. Then, focus your efforts on these specific platforms to make the most of your marketing budget.

Create well-designed marketing materials.

What’s just as important as your fundraising messages are the graphics you use to catch readers’ eyes. When designed well, your marketing materials can transform your fundraising efforts.

No matter what platform you use to share your materials, your designs are what initially reel readers in and keep them invested as they read through them. In fact, your designs can actually help people understand your core message and inspire them to get involved.

When reimagining your outreach, make sure to incorporate these graphic design best practices into all your materials, whether you’re sharing fundraising flyers, sending donation request letters, or posting on social media:

  • Infuse your brand. You want people to instantly associate your fundraising materials with your cause. Do this by incorporating your official logo, colors, and fonts into your materials.
  • Create a hierarchy of content. Organize your content and guide your readers’ eyes to the most important parts of your materials. Different-sized fonts, bolded text, italics, and colors are all proven ways to direct readers’ attention to different parts of your graphics.
  • Don’t overload your materials with too many elements. Use whitespace, dividers, and bullet points to make your content easily digestible. Too much text or an overwhelming amount of graphics can deter readers from engaging with your materials.

Compelling graphic design is an unavoidable part of nonprofit marketing. From your fundraising letters to social media posts, a powerful design is a crucial part of defining your brand and inspiring people to donate to your cause.

Create a digital marketing style guide.

Online marketing is crucial, especially considering organic visitors to nonprofit websites make up 44% of total nonprofit web traffic. With a digital style guide, you can ensure that all online marketing materials, from your website’s donation page to your social media posts, align with your nonprofit’s brand.

Creating a brand guide will ensure that your team and third-party vendors are on the same page about how to present your nonprofit. For instance, you’ll want to define requirements for specific elements such as:

  • Your official colors
  • When to use different variations of your nonprofit’s logo
  • Typography, including preferred fonts, colors, weights, and cases
  • Tone of voice

Following specific guidelines across all fundraising materials will boost brand recognition and provide a uniform, professional experience for supporters connecting with you online.

Step #9: Prioritize your stewardship strategy.

Throughout the year, your organization probably engages in a number of activities meant to recruit new supporters, from social media campaigns to prospect research.

However, don’t lose sight of the importance of donor retention. Retaining the donors you already have is much more cost-effective in the long run than constantly spending time and effort on finding new supporters. Plus, repeat donors are much more valuable since they tend to contribute in greater amounts over time.

Take a closer look at how the donor stewardship cycle ushers prospective donors toward becoming recurring, long-term supporters:

The donor stewardship cycle, an important part of your fundraising strategy, involves getting to know donors, thanking them for their involvement and encouraging them to stay involved with your cause.

  • You get to know more about your donor as you introduce them to your nonprofit’s mission and fundraising goals at the same time.
  • The donor decides to donate.
  • You send sincere thank-you efforts to your donor, from thank-you letters to gala invites.
  • Your donor feels genuinely appreciated and valued by your organization.
  • The donor decides to continue supporting your mission.

To ensure your stewardship efforts are designed to boost your donor retention rate, you must:

  • Strengthen relationships with current donors. Continually engage with current supporters by inviting them to participate in a number of ways beyond just donating. This includes getting involved in volunteer work or advocacy campaigns.
  • Thank donors in a way that resonates with them. What’s better than a heart-felt thank-you message? One that’s delivered on your donors’ favorite platforms! If donors have expressed a preference for how they’d like to be thanked, such as being included in your donor wall or on social media, make sure to express appreciation using their favorite communication channel.
  • Make your thank-you letters or efforts genuine. Ensure the size of the thank-you is equivalent to the size of the gift. For example, don’t just send a thank-you email to your largest donors—these individuals deserve more personalized, public recognition! You might create a handwritten thank-you letter, invite them to an appreciation gala and spotlight them on your donor wall.

The more connections you can make with your donors, the more likely they are to continue supporting your organization for the long term. It’s much harder to cut ties with an organization that makes an effort to get to know each donor, involves them in a variety of ways and expresses appreciation for their contributions!

Step #10: Choose your metrics and stick to them!

Finally, clearly define the metrics you want to evaluate to measure the success of your fundraising strategy.

These metrics represent the key areas that you will evaluate both throughout and at the close of a fundraising effort to show how your organization has improved or regressed.

Some metrics you could examine include:

  • Donor acquisition rates.
  • Donor retention percentage.
  • Donor growth/conversion numbers.
  • Event attendance.

Select a core set of metrics you plan to measure well into the future of your organization. Data is only representative when you can compare it to something, so it will not help your organization if you do not consistently collect data on the same metrics.

For instance, review this example of a comparison of event attendance and donor acquisition rates over an extended period. This image shows both metrics steadily increasing over time, signaling an upward trend in both engagement metrics.

Build your fundraising strategy by comparing important metrics over time.

Again, this is a great opportunity to seek counsel from a fundraising consultant. A fundraising consultant can help you determine key performance indicators (KPIs) tailored to the scope of your organization, as well as provide insight into how to move forward once you evaluate your metrics.

Wrapping Up

Effective fundraising starts by building a solid fundraising strategy for your organization to follow. Now that you know the steps to build an excellent fundraising strategy of your own, you are ready to write a new chapter of your organization’s success!

Remember, if taking on the challenge of creating a new fundraising strategy feels overwhelming, consider working with a fundraising consultant like Aly Sterling Philanthropy.

Our consultation process begins by interviewing key stakeholders. Then, we assess your culture and infrastructure, propose recommendations, set KPIs and help equip your team to carry out your new strategy effectively.

This image showcases Aly Sterling Philanthropy’s process for helping nonprofits optimize their fundraising strategies.
After evaluating your current strategy, the right consulting firm can help you develop a new, better strategy and assist you with implementing it at your nonprofit.

Interested in finding out how this process can support your organization? Contact us today for more information!

Looking for more insight into how to create a successful new fundraising strategy? These additional resources will help:

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