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5 Steps to Elevate and Evolve Your Nonprofit Fundraising Strategy


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Published January 5, 2024 Reading Time: 8 minutes

Enter the new year confidently with an annual fundraising strategy that elevates and evolves your nonprofit. With these five simple steps, you can create a plan that focuses on memorable experiences, fundraising intelligence, and ideal donor communities. 

We’ve paired a detailed fundraising creation process with the latest innovations to uplevel all aspects of your supporter experience and staff productivity. Envision what’s possible in the coming year and feel empowered with actions to combat donor disengagement and fluctuating giving trends.

What Is the Value of an Effective Fundraising Strategy?

A fundraising strategy is your organization’s guiding light. It’s often a living document communicating your nonprofit’s goals and direction for a successful fundraising year. 

In addition, it’s a great accountability tool as you evolve with the modern giving landscape. Doing some upfront work now to solidify each detail gives you a sound fundraising plan to return to all year.

Nonprofits face immense pressure to find a path forward despite inflation, higher living costs, record-level consumer debt, and unexpected current events that impact giving behavior. 

Your annual fundraising strategy is a great way to create resilience and ease of mind when roadblocks arise. Despite the economic strain and added complexity of reaching donors across a growing list of saturated channels, generosity persists. Nonprofits must discover how to continue sparking that flame in new ways to protect the long-term sustainability of their missions. 

Below, you’ll find five annual fundraising steps that help you get through the noise, build stronger personal connections with the people who help you raise more, and deliver experiences that create communities of loyal supporters.

Read Next: 4 Ideas to Reach More Supporters through Their Communities

Step 1: Evaluate Your Annual Plans Against Current Trends

Ahead of any strategic decision is a moment of pause to set your direction. It’s helpful to understand where the sector stands, what donors think about and want, and how your current fundraising strategy can shift to meet the moment. 

Taking risks and trying something new is more nerve-racking when giving levels aren’t as consistent as in the past. That’s why it’s crucial to know how to stand apart to tap into existing generosity.

To strengthen your modern fundraising efforts, ask yourself:

  • Do your existing programs and fundraising campaigns still serve your cause?
  • Are your goals aligned with current in-person fundraising and online donation trends?
  • Are your strategies still as effective as when you first implemented them?
  • Where are there opportunities to test new strategies this year?
  • What new tools or offerings could you implement to surprise and delight loyal donors?
  • What do new and current donors want to see?
  • Are you considering unique donor segments when planning your fundraising activities and marketing strategy?
  • Are you thinking about how peer-to-peer fundraising can grow awareness and charitable behavior?

Social media has become a key tool to peer-to-peer fundraising for us. We recognized how our closest supporters respond when we create content and a fundraiser toolkit that makes it easy for them to share on their social media accounts. A post shared by supporters will often have better engagement and more impact than content only shared on an organization’s outlets. I typically reach out to our board, young professionals, and other key voices to ask for support in getting our story out on social media ahead of a big campaign.

Stacy Nunnally

Marketing & PR at Safe Haven Family Shelter

Tap into technology: Meet the look, feel, and performance donors have come to expect with direct giving experiences built for conversion. Boost performance by designing experiences specifically for mobile devices, offering the payment options donors want, and streamlining how many steps your supporters need to click through to complete their transaction with innovative donation pages and embedded giving experiences.

Read Next: Explore It on Classy

Step 2: Assess Clear Paths to Grow Your Annual Fundraising Strategy

Once you’ve considered where your strategy stands, look ahead to the actionable tasks that move it into the future. 

One way to do that is to work on a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) analysis with leaders and board members to identify areas with the most significant potential for growth. 

This practice is one many for-profit and nonprofits use to easily pinpoint areas where deficiencies exist and identify where to push boundaries.


  • Do you have a far-reaching, reliable pool of donors ready to give?
  • Does your fundraising strategy involve offering multiple ways for supporters to take action?
  • Do you facilitate enough peer-to-peer fundraising opportunities?
  • Is your recurring fundraising revenue sustainable?
  • Do you have campaigns that continue to grow year after year?


  • What is a donor’s experience on your website when they make a gift?
  • Can you rely on the relationships you’ve built with sponsors, partners, and major donors?
  • Are you keeping up with AI and intelligent technology experiences?
  • Are you nurturing your volunteer base?
  • Do donors know how much you appreciate them at every stage of their journey?
  • Are you setting your goals too low by assuming donations are declining?
  • Are you losing touch with donors after the big giving season?



  • What is the current and forecasted state of the economy?
  • Are staff members equipped to meet fundraising needs?
  • How will donor expectations continue to change as technology does?
  • Are you ready to engage different generations?

We have built strong relationships with our donors throughout the years, and they play a huge role in our big fundraising efforts like Giving Tuesday. Reaching new donors and securing additional donations is always a key goal, of course, but often these efforts from our supporters also lead to other amazing things like in-kind donors, volunteers, potential board members, and more ways to strengthen relationships and think of long-term about how that impacts our fundraising efforts.

Stacy Nunnally

Marketing & PR at Safe Haven Family Shelter

Tap into technology: Consider how to appeal to more donors looking to engage in various ways with a diversified fundraising portfolio. Build in events, crowdfunding, and peer-to-peer campaigns with the opportunity to uplevel support through a recurring donation. Campaign templates and brand consistency can help you get opportunities up and running faster to meet unprecedented times and sudden events or build relationships with corporate partners.

Read Next: Explore It on Classy

Step 3: Align Your Strategy to the SMART Goal Framework

After committing to focus areas, set clear goals at an organizational, campaign, team, and individual level. You can establish (or reestablish) your goals by defining specific, measurable, achievable, results-oriented, and time-bound goals. The SMART goal framework is your best friend for this step.

Let’s see this framework in action. Say you start using videos to communicate your organization’s impact. 

Look how goals differ when you incorporate the SMART principles:

  • Poor goal example: Create videos to demonstrate our impact.
  • SMART goal example: Hire a freelance videographer to produce at least two short-form videos within the fundraising calendar year that communicate our story and illustrate our impact. Release the first in Q2 and the second in Q4.

With SMART goals, you can easily map out your donor acquisition and donor retention efforts. Start by identifying the individual campaigns and initiatives you plan to launch, then brainstorm the most effective ways to motivate your supporters to get involved and boost your retention rates.

This year, our strategy was clear and concise. We presented an opportunity for our donors to make a difference, then made the process to donate as simple as possible. We avoid[ed] gimmicks or elaborate pitches, and I honestly think that people resonated with that.

Austin Crow

MANNA Worldwide


Tap into technology: Consider which goals you can invite your passionate supporters to support. Engage them in peer-to-peer fundraising that allows them to advocate for your cause and tap into their communities as a trusted voice that calls them to action. Including peer-to-peer fundraising, time-based campaigns, or a year-round DIY program can help raise more toward your annual goals without requiring additional work from your team.

Read Next: Explore It on Classy

Step 4: Create Unforgettable Giving Experiences

Your nonprofit’s mission drives every decision you make. Use that larger “why” to ensure each tactic and donor conversation reflects your organization’s personality and heart. 

Intentionality will help you create a giving experience that surprises donors. From there, add ease and flexibility that mimic the experiences your donors have come to love in their daily lives.

Develop Clear, Consistent Messaging

Part of a modern, high-performing giving experience is considering how you’ll uphold brand consistency across all donor stewardship touchpoints. This includes seasonal campaigns and last-minute appeals to ensure one cohesive narrative however your donors interact with your nonprofit.

Key messaging opportunities:

Creating the right experience for the right donor at the right time is crucial. Achieve this through segmented messaging that guides people to a direct appeal and a streamlined experience to take action. You want to communicate in a way that feels personal and tells a story.

Considerations for your outreach may include:

  • Which communication channel does each donor generation prefer?
  • How are donors most likely to discover your cause?
  • What matters to potential donors when learning about your cause?
  • How do you make your call to action clear with minimal steps?
  • What compels year-end donors to stay with you long term?

Deliver a Cohesive Donor Journey

Planning for the best possible experience is much easier when you have a pulse on donor data. The journey you take someone on from the moment they meet your organization to the moment they return to give again can be seamless with well-integrated tools into your fundraising platform that make it all happen.

Being thanked and acknowledged for a donation is key to building strong relationships with donors. Continued communication and personalized notes throughout a campaign can make a big difference, especially by letting them know the impact of their donations through stats and success stories. Classy is such a helpful tool to allow us to create really beautiful campaigns, personalized fundraising milestone emails, and thank you emails to offer that intentional acknowledgment.

Stacy Nunnally

Marketing & PR at Safe Haven Family Shelter

Tap into technology: Think about how you can unite the power of your marketing tools, customer relationship management platform, and other fundamental technologies for even greater automation. Do more without building additional time and energy into the coming year’s strategy, then use intelligent recommendations to personalize the entire experience. Tools like Zapier and public application programming interfaces simplify integration for your nonprofit, molding your experience around the donors that drive your mission forward.

Read Next: Explore It on Classy

Step 5: Learn from the Past

They say the numbers don’t lie, which brings us to our last step. Remain resilient against societal, digital, and economic shifts by tapping into your data and understanding key performance indicators

A connected fundraising strategy provides the donor information you need for smart decision-making and a more holistic view of your supporters, transactions, campaign performance, and donor behavior. The takeaways can inform your plan to develop tactics that yield similar results this year.

Reflections shared by successful nonprofit organizations include:

  1. Create a plan to give cross-functional teams the structure, support, and time to execute specific tasks before the giving season picks up steam.
  2. Tell a story to explain the “why” behind each campaign and tie the story with your organization’s overarching mission.
  3. Collaborate with sponsors, major donors, or corporate partners to support campaign initiatives.
  4. Communicate the specific need each campaign fills every time you ask donors for support.
  5. Don’t be afraid to try something new since every fundraising idea offers insight to guide next year’s plan.

I think we underestimate the genuine desire people have to make an impact. Creating these campaigns often feels like setting up a sales pitch or a marketing exercise. At the end of the day, it comes down to getting out of the way of your supporters and letting them make their impact.

Austin Crow

MANNA Worldwide


Tap into technology: Lean into fundraising analytics to gain clarity around campaign performance and find clear areas of opportunity. Leverage tools that offer predictive insights and analytics that benchmark your fundraising performance. More information in your toolkit will help confirm your direction.

Read Next: Explore It on Classy

Ignite Your Annual Fundraising Strategy with Classy

Alongside the charitable organizations we support, Classy is always looking ahead to anticipate and plan for the hurdles and opportunities our sector may face. We do this through constant innovation across our fundraising platform to establish a single system you can trust and the flexibility to use it in sync with tools that enhance your team’s potential. 

We’re thrilled to enhance our ongoing releases, offering increased ease in personalizing your giving experience by the donor, tapping into diverse giving paths that foster community unity, and leveraging intelligence to boost conversions while prioritizing long-term community loyalty at every step.

Copy Editor: Ayanna Julien

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