Elizabeth Chung

How to Create a Strategic Fundraising Plan That You’ll Actually Stick To

Alexander Graham Bell said it best:

“Before anything else, preparation is the key to success.”

In the fundraising universe, nothing is truer. Fundraising without a strategy is like playing a soccer game with a sprained ankle. You’re already at a major disadvantage.

Enter strategic fundraising plans. Many organizations create one strategic fundraising plan for their organization and its overall mission, but it’s wiser to develop separate plans for each of your major campaigns. Every campaign has a specific objective that may appeal to different pools of supporters. As such, each initiative warrants its own approach and preparation.

Creating a strategic fundraising plan really clarifies why your campaign is critical to your mission and who your audience really is. That level of focus generates campaigns that are better communicated, more compelling and, thus, much more successful.

Your Strategic Fundraising Plan, Part 1: Create Your Case for Support

Your case for support is a critical component of your strategic fundraising plan. This is the key document upon which you’ll build your fundraising campaign and its messaging, whether it’s a capital or endowment campaign, major gift outreach, or an online fundraising initiative.

So what exactly is a case for support?

Think of a case for support as your nonprofit’s campaign manifesto; it’s an internal document that forms the backbone of all your campaign’s donor communications and solicitations. It provides reasoning for support by telling the overarching of your campaign.

For example, let’s say you’re a nonprofit that empowers young leaders through education and you’re planning a campaign that funds scholarships. At its core, your campaign’s case for support should explain how funding scholarships, specifically, is important and connected to bringing education to people around the world, and why donors should get involved.

Your case for support should answer the following questions:

• Who is your organization and what do you do?
• What sets you apart from other organizations?
• What problem are you addressing?
• How are you addressing it?
• How will this particular campaign and its objective help achieve your larger goal as an organization?
• How can the donor get involved?
• Why should the donor support this campaign?

Oftentimes, this ends up being a 2-6-page document out of which you can pull themes, catch phrases, or ideas to create your campaign collateral. Excellent cases for support deliver compelling impact stories and quantitative evidence of your programs’ credibility and service.

As you start your strategic fundraising plan and create your case for support, it helps to ask yourself the following questions:

• Is your message clear, concise, and compelling?
• Would the donor have a solid understanding of the organization’s programs, impact, and the people it supports?
• How effectively does this case set the stage for why we need $X (i.e. does it accurately describe and set the tone of urgency for the current situation, and the growing need in the future)?
• Would a prospective donor be inspired to give after reading this case?

Your Strategic Fundraising Plan, Part 2: Identify Superstar Supporters

This part of your strategic fundraising plan is all about pinpointing key players.

Identify your closest, most dedicated supporters that you know you can rely on to help steer your campaign to success. These are your longstanding committed donors, past power fundraisers, social media evangelists, and most passionate volunteers. Not only can you rely on these people to be the first to donate to your campaign, but they would be the leaders and catalysts to rally others around your cause too.

Keep in mind you’ll be communicating with these individuals personally throughout the campaign. To make your individualized outreach more manageable, keep this all-star group to 10-15 people. Grouping hundreds of people in this elite tier will probably inhibit your ability to reach out to each one on a personalized level.

Your Strategic Fundraising Plan, Part 3: Identify Prospects

No strategic fundraising plan is complete without your list of potential donors.

It’s extremely important to get really specific with your list of prospects. You want to identify any and all donors who care not just about your organization, but about this specific campaign.

After you’ve identified these potential donors, take your segmentation two steps further and get super precise with their connections to this campaign.

To illustrate, let’s say you were raising money for those scholarships. You might end up with donor segments that look something like this:

• Supporters who have donated to your scholarship program
• Supporters who have fundraised for your scholarship program
Third-party donors who have given to a fundraiser’s personal campaign benefitting your scholarship program
College alumni who have personally received scholarships
• Supporters, staff, or board members who work in education (tip: you can segment by .edu emails)

Notice how the smallest nuances can distinguish another segment of donors. Doing all this really isn’t meant to give you a headache; it’s meant to help you create hyper-targeted communications for your campaign. Personalization enables you to deliver more compelling messages to potential supporters.

Your Strategic Fundraising Plan, Part 4: Develop the Plan

The breakdown of the critical components to your strategic fundraising plan

Now that you have your campaign messaging, superstar supporters, and targeted donors in place, it’s time to figure out how to execute your strategic fundraising plan. Make sure you document how you will execute every part of your campaign.

You’ll have a lot of details to chisel out, but make sure to hit these points:

Campaign Setup:

Start date and end date – Your internal start and end dates account for your pre- and post-campaign outreach, and might extend further out than the campaign’s public dates.

The fundraising goal – Set your campaign’s financial goal, both public and internal (eg. your publicized goal might be $50,000, but you may have an internal stretch goal of $75,000).

Donor acquisition goal – Decide how many new donors you’re looking to acquire, and how many fundraisers you want to recruit to make campaign pages.


Soft launch – Decide when and how you will contact your superstar supporters. Schedule any personalized phone calls or tailored emails. These individuals should be contacted before the official launch of your campaign, so they can help drum up support on Day 0.

Communication channels – Determine which channels you will use, and how. Is your campaign email-based? If so, when will you send your emails? What about social media engagement? Will you be making any phone calls? Are you using your nonprofit blog?

Communication calendar – Create schedules for your email and social media campaigns

Assets – Decide what content and materials you will need to tell your story (eg. visuals, infographics, impact stories, photos, videos, etc.)

Campaign milestones – Plan how you will create a sense of urgency so people feel the need to donate. For instance, will you broadcast any deadlines down the road? (eg. match campaign announcements, campaign end date, etc.)

Celebrations – Establish any incentives or ways you will recognize donors, fundraisers, or sponsors (eg. a leadership board on your website, brand recognition for sponsors on fundraising pages, personal phone calls for anyone who donates $X or more, etc.)

Preliminary Work:

Board support – Get buy-in from your board, major donors, or corporate partners

Match campaigns – Brainstorm any corporate partners or large donors who would be willing to sponsor a match campaign

Make your way down this list, and you’ll be in great shape. Locking these details into your strategic fundraising plan will leave you very prepared for your campaign launch.

How Strategic (and Successful) Are You Willing to Be?

At the end of the day, your strategic fundraising plan will only be as strategic as you make it. Its effectiveness will be a direct result of how thorough and precise you are willing to be. If you’ve never tried your hand at one before, you now have a great place to start. Take this framework, develop these four components, and gear yourself up for your next campaign success!

Image Credit: Markus Spiske


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